January, by Jaya Savige

16 August 2017

for Peter Gizzi

We sit to a bowl of miso ramen,
same as the night before, only this time
you’re coming down with something
and need the chilli. Later we’ll sketch
a brief history of risk, the word’s
first appearance in a seventeenth-
century translation of the Lusiad,
the Portugese retelling of Homer
with da Gama as Odysseus; how
mortality data drawn from the plagues
in England gave birth to actuarial
science, and Halley, of comet fame
crunched the numbers for the seeds
of life insurance — the epistemic
shift from the providential view
that meant you’d sooner sacrifice
a goat before a trip than trust in
numbers. These days we rationalise:
what’s the probability of the plane
falling out of the sky? You’re far
more likely to be struck by lightning.
Did I tell you my father died in a plane
crash? you’ll say, and I — mortified
by my hypothetical, nodding as you
explain your penchant for Xanax
on cross-Atlantic flights — think back
to this moment, ladling miso into
our mouths, steam rising in winter,
you explaining how you nursed
your dying mother this September
and muttering, half under your breath:
Dying is so expensive in America.

[Read at and ripped from Jacket2.org]

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