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In days of caves and communal songs, in days of old,
There was no morphine. The humans’ brains
Were just as quick and big as in 2010,
But there were no bookstores or even any libraries,
So when a situation came up which seemed new
There was little guidance, only the oral history bullshit.
In unendurable pain from just about anything,
Cancer, diabetes, eye infections, gangrene, hunting bites,
Severed limbs, a widespread deadly arthritis to die from
That hurt more than our arthritis now,
A decayed tooth, all the forms of cancer I should have
Mentioned specifically instead of it generically, since there was no morphine
And no books, they thought about the beginning, the very
Beginning, the person who was in unendurable pain and those bedside
Thought and thought and suspected that if they came up
With the answer, how it all began, they could have a say
In how it was turning out or how it was structured,
And get at the pain that way. They thought (remember,
Their brains were as capable as ours) of the
Big bang and of the it-was-always-here idea
And once thought of the it-would-always-be-here idea
Applying the latter as the non-end of the bang and the non-never-end
Of the always here. None of that helped of
Course. What, did you think I’d tell you it helped? Or
That they found out by thinking what the correct answer was?
So they invented morphine and books, took a while. These have solved
A lot of problems, but not the big ones.
I know you suspect they must have had their
Albert Einstein and their Stephen Hawking. Hawking
Has just said yesterday that we are doomed
Unless we go into space far and often. Their Hawking in days of old
Said the same thing, don’t ask me how I know, I know.
Our Einstein said six decades ago that the bees
Better not disappear or we will disappear four years from then. He
Maintained it was his most important discovery (ok,
So he didn’t think it was the most important, so what) and now
Half of the bees disappeared last year, no shit. Their Einstein
In days of old said the same thing about the bees, but
He studied nothing else, was not a mathematician or physicist, just
The bees, which were all around him, as were the plants. (Do
You really want to ask me how I know, come on, use
Your common sense, it’s not in the books and it is in the books.) Also
The artist is the main figure in the landscape
No matter the year and that’s me. Think of it
That way and see if it doesn’t make you feel better.
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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.
Both regulators and employers have embraced new technologies for on-the-job monitoring, turning a blind eye to unjust working conditions.
But I do miss the hymns, / the small, hard apples with their dimpled skin. I do miss / things.