Having walked out of one millenium into the next,
an illegal immigrant crossing the border,
an alien wearing the desert for a watch,
the nights are no darker, the mornings no more
unforgivably beatific. As before and before
and before the days go by,
jaded ambulances and women I will never know,
though I come on like a freshly painted crosswalk
with two virgin passports
and a green card to pick lettuce on the moon.
I was prepared for a big change
that no one else would notice, not the debt-collecting goons
of Apocalypse and Armageddon
that show up at the door
to break your kneecaps like fortune-cookies
if you’re not homeless by tomorrow, not
the rotten needlepoint of those old dooms,
but something with stars and grass and wild water
a bag of pot, wine, cigarettes and a woman beside me,
midnight at noon, charging the air
with the sexual wyrd of her approaching eclipse.
I thought, what the fuck, everyone’s entitled
to a soft sundial
in the available dimension of the future
even if it’s de rigeur to cultivate the bleak,
and who knows, I might start a trend.
Let no one divulge the improbability of a dream.
Now I’m eleven years into the twenty-first century
and my heart is a nightwatchman in a morgue
looking for a flashlight in the dark,
trying to keep the light on long enough
to see if I can recognize anyone.
There are more ways than one to get home,
or so I tell myself leaving the solar system
like a space probe
into the indigo realms of the open,
packed with symbols and curios
that might pass for signs of intelligence
should I meet a sphinx.
I’m grounded in the emptiness,
a seed on the wind with nowhere to root.
And though I may have unfolded like a flower
in the radiance of the sun,
I was dropped from a bridge
into a river that has no banks
by the hand of a faithless lover.
Exiled by exiles into exploration
I keep sending back pixels and poems,
postcards from the edge of nowhere,
but I don’t know if anyone is listening
as the earth recedes
to the perfect point of a vertex
and disappears among the stars.
And it’s not that I’m running away, it’s just
that oblivion is sometimes a means
of keeping things in perspective
as I proceed deeper into these dwarfing spaces,
an ambassador with a suicide note
from a self-destructive planet
screaming out for attention. Contact.
A universe we can panic into caring,
that knows how to love
in a way we couldn’t manage, a brilliance
that doesn’t horde armies in the shadows,
an enlightenment that isn’t a growlight in a closet.
But do forgive the voyeurism of my longing
for something better than I left,
there are no echoes here
and no one burns a candle in the window,
or slips a tormented apology under the door
to heal the wound of my departure
with the sin-eating maggots
of beautiful lies. Not to rehearse
old catastrophes on a revolving stage in modern dress,
the litany of horrors on the playbill,
or waltz with the heavy velvet
of theatre curtains at a gala of crude beginnings in a mosh-pit,
the metaphors all elbows and bullies,
and the music, the head-banging metronomic mania
of amplified crustaceans, a swan-song for Nazis,
but the history of our encyclopedic species
is still the unholy shriek
of a cosmic ape in an abattoir and our indifference,
the universal background radio hiss
of the big bang reduced to a whimper,
the white noise that attunes this cacophony
of crime and folly and war to our stupefied silence.
I’ve been gone for such a long time, tell me,
are the gas-chambers empty, do we still
turn humans into soap
to wash the blood from our hands, have
the concentration camps been closed in the off-season,
do the children still drink from sewers
and play hide and seek
in a garden of ripening land-mines,
the stumps of their arms and legs,
the Venus de Milos and Apollo Belevederes
of savaged dolls? Is hunger
still the direction of prayer for millions,
and disease the fly that shadows them?
How is it with the rich man and the poor?
Is the daughter of one
still the whore of the other
in charity matinees for medicated mothers?
Does dawn still prime the ghosts
in the mass graves of empty wallets?
Are the young still free
to find their way in the world like roadkill,
or has ignorance squared the circle at last
and turned the corner on depravity?
Do the corporations still own the rain in Bolivia,
and patents pending on the genes
of hybrid animals, logos and slumlords
in the ghettos of gravity? Tell me,
before I mistake a garbage barge
for an island in the distance,
are the budgets of small countries
still awarded to movie stars and athletes
for a trivial excellence
while seventy-five million people die of AIDS
in the next five years of global warming
and there’s a young genius
with a cure and an answer
dying of cancer in front of a firing squad?
Do the teen-agers in Bagdhad
still draw the contagion out
with a poultice of explosives
while adolescents on ecstasy in L.A.
desiccate their spinal fluids
in a Roman orgy of wheelchairs?
Are the redneck rap-stars of rural Perth,
the ‘wanna be’ pimps with faces like cow-pies
still sharing infected needles
behind the empty foodbank?
Has anything been settled?
Are the generals satisfied
and the purse-snatching governments
weary of stealing from their own?
Is there a school
that doesn’t drink spit from another man’s mouth
for anyone with a mind, a science
that isn’t the bitch of money and power,
a religion that doesn’t teach a child to cower,
an art that isn’t the atrocity of the hour?
Look me straight in the eye
like a satellite or the Hubble scope or Houston
and tell me has anything changed
with the falling of these first few grains,
the last eleven years of my dwindling out
in the new era of the hourglass? Are the old
still wise alone behind a wasted windowpane
and experience an ore the fools cannot refine?
Are children taught to crave
before they learn to give
and the trees of the city still in concrete and chains?
Are the cruel romanced
and the gentle scorned, the best
belittled, and the least exalted?
Are there old men in the park
trying to stare themselves to death
and five hundred chemicals in the very next breath,
is the sky a cataract, the rain a poison tear,
the earth, contaminated real estate?
When we turned the page
of the voluminous century
to read on in search
of indubitable proof
of our renewable virginity
were the hundred million people
we killed in the last saeculum
of our genocidal curriculum
somewhere in the footnotes?
But you needn’t answer that.
I’m only talking to myself
in this huge, mute, brutal place
where the earth isn’t even a microbe
and time is defied by the enormity of space
that lies before me like an ancient future
that has already happened here and now
faster than light
and disappeared without a trace
a waterbird, or the shadow of something in the night,
or a flame the fire gave to the wind,
or the name of someone written in sand,
who tried to understand
the long disgrace of the human race
through years of rage and tears,
and sent out like a dove to look for land,
epochs of blood in the murderous starmud,
buried his face in the valley of his hands
where he used to pray for deliverance,
and nothing to say that would make a difference