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A weekly poem, read by the author.
July 21 1999 3:27 AM


A child asks endlessly about dying,
not death, but some fixed point,
not the state and estate of death.

It's about the invisible net
of infinity cast over
so small a frame of reference.

For the rest of us the net fills gradually in,
like an image coming up coyly but decisively
in a darkroom tray of chemicals.

We took a trip to the House of Reptiles
where I looked into the humorless eyes
of the albino reticulated python

set in their cold skull like precious, unpolished stones--
eyes like the precipice that invites
the wary to leap, pulled over by reverse phobia.

For three dollars we were allowed the chance
to face death eye to eye, inches
and a thickness of glass away,

the reptile simultaneously metaphor
and pathway out of this life,
coiled, patient, solemnly inquisitive.

Not the act of dying,
but the estate of limbo--
the days run out, no longer oneself.

Daniel Halpern's newest collection of poems, Something Shining, will be published this fall.