I heard this morning that poet and disability rights activist Neil Marcus has passed away. Once, in Chicago, he put a radish on my nose. He was a lively and unceremonious rascal and by God I’ll miss him. We desperately need subversive humor in these times. The darker the jokes the better. I like this one by the Finnish poet Pentti Saarikoski:
“Elämä on ihmiselle annettu,
jotta hän tarkoin harkitsisi,
missä asennossa tahtoo olla kuollut…”
“Life is given to man
so he may consider
In what position he wants to be dead…”
Neil would have understood these lines as a benediction. Disability was always in his mind as a primary mode of imagination. If Saarikoski is correct, life affords us an opportunity to do our own jokes.
Neil’s jokes were better.
“The soul takes nothing with her to the next world but her education and her culture. At the beginning of the journey to the next world, one’s education and culture can either provide the greatest assistance, or else act as the greatest burden, to the person who has just died.”
Neil I hope you and Saarikoski are in the great afterlife sauna with whisks made from birch leaves…