Tom Howard

(3-4 August 1994) after Elizabeth Barrett Browning

You are dead. You turned your last corner— off the road. Now you can’t come back and you can’t deny any of our praise. With your thin white hair, your trembling hands, your reddish cheeks, hoarse voice, loose clothes, loose-skin, and your polio limp, you were a kind, old, foolish man continuing to work although you were close to death, as though you didn’t care you were close to death, until you drove down the mountain with your wife. Now you can’t deny death; you can’t work; you don’t have a choice. You can’t compute, codify, or compile. You can’t run your test cases or report the surprises you would delight to find. You can’t pursue your thoughts again through the library into books or to my office down the hall. You can’t give, you can’t learn a damn thing more, and you can’t forget. Now you must continue where there are no mountains to fly from, no roads to leave, no sorrows, and no regrets, and never come back.