Actually

He pauses, remembering having read somewhere that using "actually" as a
prefix to a declaration often indicates a lie will follow.

He pauses, wondering if what he is about to say is truth or fiction. Not so
much one or the other, perhaps a mix, perhaps a selective reading of the
past.

He restarts. Actually, ambivalence is not what is disturbing him; it is
just a cloak, thrown rapidly over the budding, the bubbling up of something
that he would prefer to remain hidden, not to be thought about. Saying he
is ambivalent gives him time to take the deep breaths necessary before
starting the sifting process, the archaeological dig.

The obituary part of it does not disturb him, for the significant reality
is that this writer has been dead to him for a long time, killed by
separation, the act of not-seeing. What contact there has been in nearly
forty years has been the gathering of memento mori—that first book of
poems, signed, numbered, bought four or so years ago in a secondhand store
in Auckland, thirty years after its publication—or the literary equivalent
of laying flowers on a grave, writing a poem dedicated to & named for the
writer.

& not just dead to him, but to many others. A decades-long wake, not
talking of the dead but asking after him. "Have you heard anything
of.....?" Now, it appears, it is time to exhume the corpse, even though it
is not yet a corpse, since by the time the autopsy is performed & the
obituary is written it may well be so.

He recalls that at times in the past, if a high-born lady fell ill,
diagnosis would be carried out on a handmaiden or a servant for it was
considered improper for the lady to be inspected deshabillé. Here, too,
the first stroke of the knife will fall elsewhere; before writing the
obituary of the other, he has to begin by writing his own.

poet's biography ->