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Ovid, in the infomercial, starts to monitor his pain,
then gives up trying. A second later the image is lost
through a nearly opaque glass transom. It was an ankle,
sheathed in ribbons. Now apostrophe, the very stuff of narrative,
shivers and turns spasmodic. Yes, the girls were here,
it seems to say, but all have gone down to look at the bridge.
You were careful about choosing your companions, did what
was expected of you, rose early to greet the punching ball,
shook droplets off the toothbrush, and like so.
Does it ever occur to you in what millennia we are standing?
Yes, the good stuff was poised to return, but the screen crashed,
and there is no help in us, over and under the now receding water.
I’d like to buy a definite article, but it’s not that easy.
The yes-men must have their say. Patter of the stranger causing us
to be noted, hunted down under the dome. Written memorials are fine,
better if placed beneath glass in a cold room.
Where did the smitten
firemen go? They sent us compliments and a basket heaped high
with jellies and preserves, a small bottle of cognac to be taken
in the night, preferably in the early hours of the morning.
I look and stand down from this mess my memoirs have created—
it was all about foxhunting, wasn’t it, and getting there
ahead of one or two others, who glance sheepishly
now, falling back one or two paces? Sure, it was understood
you’d win, then accept second place, but I can’t say any of this
intrigues me still. I’ll look out for your mother.
She’s probably on the way back from school, calling to you
in your grown sister’s voice. Can we have habits and still
rattle on like this, smoothly, from one decade to the next?
It all depends on what your pappy found behind the briar bush,
with you in seventh heaven, the unlikeliest ward to be trapped in,
once over the stile. The vehicle of winter begins its slide,
slow avalanche toward the truest sentiments, encrusted in rime,
or left out in the open for everyone to enjoy, slave master
and commoner alike. It’s not its fault we anticipated its arrival
by several decades and are disingenuous, bursting
to tell the circumstances of having settled, then scattered
to the four points of the compass, an uncivil rout
but a necessary one for ending here, this way, this day. The fat lady
is working up a full head of steam. The conductor is smiling,
the sylvan backdrop is unscrolling. Can we have our presents now?
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How would I know / when I’m empty and quiet like breath?
Historian Gerald Horne has developed a grand theory of U.S. history as a series of devastating backlashes to progress—right down to the present day.
Reflecting on three monumental works of modernism—James Joyce’s Ulysses, T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, and Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus—a hundred years on.