"Brilliance" - Mark Doty
"Brilliance" - Mark Doty stories

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Maggie’s taking care of a man who’s dying; he’s attended to everything,
Source: daneekasghost https://www.reddit.com/r/...

"Brilliance" - Mark Doty

by daneekasghost

Maggie’s taking care of a man

who’s dying; he’s attended to everything,

said goodbye to his parents,

paid off his credit card.

She says *Why don’t you just*

*run it up to the limit?*

but he wants everything

squared away, no balance owed,

though he misses the pets

he’s already found a home for

–he can’t be around dogs or cats,

too much risk. He says,

*I can’t have anything.*

She says, *A bowl of goldfish?*

He says he doesn’t want to start

with anything and then describes

the kind he’d maybe like,

how their tails would fan

to a gold flaring. They talk

about hot jewel tones,

gold lacquer, say maybe

they’ll go pick some out

though he can’t go much of anywhere and then

abruptly he says *I can’t have*

*anything I can’t finish.*

He says it like he’s had enough

of the whole scintillant world,

though what he means is

he’ll never be satisfied and therefore

has established this discipline,

a kind of severe rehearsal.

That’s where they leave it,

him looking out the window,

her knitting as she does because

she needs to do something.

Later he leaves a message:

*Yes to the bowl of goldfish.*

Meaning: let me go, if I have to,

in brilliance. In a story I read,

a Zen master who’d perfected

his detachment from the things of the world

remembered, at the moment of dying,

a deer he used to feed in the park,

and wondered who might care for it,

and at that instant was reborn

in the stunned flesh of a fawn.

So, Maggie’s friend—

is he going out

into the last loved object

of his attention?

Fanning the veined translucence

of an opulent tail,

undulant in some uncapturable curve,

is he bronze chrysanthemums,

copper leaf, hurried darting,

doubloons, icon-colored fins

troubling the water?

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