The Vacant Look
I saw an elderly sick man with a vacant look,
Seated at the hospital balcony,
Recuperating from weeks of hospitalization,
Gazing into the unknown,
And waiting for the result of the latest biopsy.
That look is a book of mystery.
What is he thinking about?
The fear of death? Obviously.
For here is undeniable evidence of the ultimate end,
The end of life’s journey,
with its achievements and failures.
The dark moment of reckoning
when the departing soul is agitated
with the dawning of the fierce truth:
The futility of it all,
The vanity of all struggles,
The vanity of material acquisition,
Of fat bank accounts and hot businesses pursuits.
The moment of introspection and self-questioning
When the haunting question insists itself
on the troubled psyche:
How will it all turn out in the end,
This mad rush for material gain,
With no dependable heir in view,
The favored son an unrepentant prodigal,
And the first son an unmitigated alcoholic
buried in dissolute living?
Come to think of it, the estate of wealthy men
Is doomed to disintegrate
And regress to nothingness
When no heir is at hand to perpetuate the family legacy.
Is this not the bane of all self-confessed dynasties?
But the fear of hell opens another chapter
to this book of mystery:
At that twilight hour, the expiring soul
braces itself to confront ultimate reality,
beholds itself naked on the cosmic monitor
Where all of life’s journey is displayed.
And you wonder where you stand in that divine equation.
This is part of the despair I saw on that vacant face.
But the solution is simple:
Only retrace, only retract.
And the good Lord is ever ready to mend the fence.
Obi Maduakor taught English for many years at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, as full Professor. He currently teaches English at Seneca College, Toronto, as Adjunct Professor. He is the author of many books and numerous essays in learned journals. He is also an evangelical Anglican priest ministering as Honorary Assistant under the jurisdiction of the Anglican Network in Canada, Toronto. He enthusiastically combines his academic work with his calling as a priest.