Friday, April 15, 2016

News of Roodias's Death Prompts me to Consider Empathy's Shortcomings

Immortality sustained by regime is irrelevant when people still die unguarded, violently, having imbibed crystal meth after the label on the bottle had led them to believe that it was a health drink. Those people who yet die swiftly, too swiftly for meaningful intervention, the “I am in trouble here, I am dying, I am dead”, are the only ones left in need of psychopomps to guide them to an afterlife. His family were from Goa, descended from Portuguese seafarers, and Roodias had a catholic funeral in Milton, Cambridge, a rood suspended by wires above the catafalque.

My ability to feel empathy is outpacing my literary prowess;
Whilst the poplar trees extending yonder in a row on my left seem to coalesce,
When I cut diagonally across this same field, ahead of my expectation,
And the point at which they have pivoted to appear, in profile, as a venation
Of trunks and boughs, as if belonging to one, comes sooner on the path each day. Elan
Of empathy draws Roodias expediently into the closed hand fan,
The scabrous guardsticks, of these poplars, and the inference there, before me in the blear,
Is of my father, his death prefigured – it is he who says “I am in trouble here,
I am dying, I am dead.” What virtue is in empathy that obscures Roodias,
In honed empathy for others when it is expeditiously gleaned of the bias
Towards my father, or myself? I must establish a sorrow with fidelity
To Roodias, peculiar, and his being, his face, essence, unpollarded, see,
Procrastinate, attentive, beyond the coalescence to scrutinise the rearmost
Poplars. He was my landlord when I was living in Histon. Whenever I burned toast,
The smoke alarm would go off in his Indian restaurant, which was situated
Below my flat. Sometimes, it went off randomly, weeks after the smoke had abated,
And Roodias became obsessed, coming round every night to inspect the alarm.
He was lovely, intelligent, but would talk incoherently, and this was his charm
And also what left me exasperated, until one day, when I was at work in
The library, my fury rose like a dragon with the jaws of a slumped salt-grit bin,
And I confess now to having visualised doing him harm, punching him as he,
In my imagination, was yet again standing on a chair, assiduously
Removing the alarm's housing. Later, when I arrived home, I found that the bathroom
Mirror had fallen and smashed on the floor. Roodias then came with a dustpan and broom,
And I felt guilty as he helped me tidy up the shards, pondering the evidence
Of telekinesis. Had my raving thoughts, in contrast now with the gentleness
Of our picking up of black-backed glass, made this happen? And then Roodias touched my hand,
And said, jokingly, as if amorous, “Oh Rogan.” I laughed, though after, he would stand
On the chair, talking accusingly about toast. What merit has empathy—“The cork
Under the cap should alert you, Roodias,” is what I say to myself as I walk
Despondently away from the poplars, then, “Why did you drink it; after admitting
To your daughter that it tasted so awful, why did you persist?”