for David Lehman
Poisoned with “luminous toxin.” Slow-acting, so I wouldn’t know, not at first. Now it’s too late. The toxin’s all through my nerves and arteries already, lighting me up inside like a neon medusa. I’ve got days and nights left to live. To find the answers. Who fed me the dose? And why? Who will have killed me?
Was it “A,” the accountant, the numbers guy—the secret gambler whose balanced figures held my world together? He keeps crystals on his desk, he knew all the angles before they were born, he has the odds figured down to the last photon. Has he just blacked out my column in the books?
Or was it “B,” the bad-good mama with the blue dress on—the babe with the cloudy eyes and the hot-iron heart? She could be smooth as air, quick as eyes in the forest, or soft as new grass. With her, though, no-one’s forever. The big clock in her hips ticks like sex but strikes like a dead-bell. Did she slip me the firefly venom in a kiss?
Maybe it was “C,” the cold-eyed chemist who makes a science of stopping hearts. His mind only travels one way, like Time. Is he the one who’s been trailing me just out of sight, never in a hurry, watching me sweat, waiting for me to fall apart? Did he mix up the lethal light that’s eating my bones?
Of course it could have been “D,” Big Daddy — Mister Know-It-All, always looking down on the mortal streets from the Sky-High Suite and calling the shots. He can let you ride his elevator right to the top or send you on a one-way trip to the basement furnace. Did he order his phosphorus angel to walk in my footsteps?
Or after all was it “O,” the Operator, the one behind the scenes who’s seen by no-one? They call her Lady Omega, but she’s as much the beginning of this story as the end. Her big shades hide the original secrets, her black phone holds all the stars. Was she the one who set me up, who lighted my road to nowhere?
Luminous toxin. It’s been in me all this time. It’s making me weaker, turning my hair gray, rusting my heart, even while it lights up everything I see. It’s in my words too, making them glow. See, I’m smarter now that I know I’m on my way out. I’ve got to work fast. And you -- whoever did this to me, they’re coming for you next.