|Rosemary asleep with Niño - March 2020|
Jorge Luis Borges was asked what was poetry useful for. His answer:
Two people have asked me that: Y have told them, “What is death for?”- “What is the taste of coffee for? – “What am I good for?” – “What is the universe for?”- “What are we for?”- What curious questions are they not?
In the mid 70s, At Bellas Artes in Mexico City, I heard for the first time Charles Ives’s 1908 composition, The Unanswered Question. The work has haunted me for many years. I have discovered that when we are curious enough to ask a relevant question, the people who can answer it are long gone and dead.
I had the opportunity to ask my father in 1966 in Buenos
Aires why Argentine author Julio Cortázar had been his friend in the late 40s. But I did not. I remember in 1950 going out to buy an Argentine brand of cigarettes, Arizonas, for Cortázar who did not like my father's Player's.
In 1977 I went to buy some books at the Buenos Aires bookstore Pygmalion and I was too stupid to ask the old blind man next to me who he was. He was Jorge Luís Borges.
In my family there are many secrets that will remain so as at my age of 80 those who would answer are dead.
But there is one ultimate question that my Rosemary asked us minutes before she died on December 9th, 2020. She asked, “Am I dying?” My memory has been blocked and I have no idea if anybody (my two daughters and granddaughter Rebecca were present) replied.
You can die of a heart attack on a street or in a terrible automobile accident. But what is it like to know you are dying and to ask your family if you are dying?
There is then more than one important question that can never be answered with satisfaction.
Am I dying?
What is it like,what does it feel, to ask that question?
And the ultimate question, What is there after?