Now and Again.
(What was this life?
thick clouds piled like mortar,
Babble-on Paris, Rome will take its cue from you--
dress her in marble, Augustus!-- preparing her place
in the catacombs of history, with every other mystery
we might murder in an easy epitaph;
here lies Helen, pale legs akimbo
in the clutter of a tomb; here lies Beauty,
weep for it; here lies Love...)
Holland sips his coffee.
"So," he says-- "what do you think about
this latest election?"
My own cup is perched like a sparrow on my fingers--
disgorging the blind, twitching worm of caffeine into my
gaping throat. The valves of my stomach open and close
like the face of a slug.
I reply: "Depending on the outcome in November, I'd say we have either five or fifteen years before the reactionaries try to establish a conservative dicatorship.
How close are they to bringing back the draft?"
He shrugs. "They've been planning it in the Pentagon since January. If Bush wins, it's basically a done deal."
(pale legs akimbo,) I set the coffee down, on the
table-cloth beside the saucer. Outside, the rain boils.
Holland fixes a grey eye on me-- "so tell me about this new poem you've been working on..."
"Well, after finishing the last work, I imploded-- I had spent too much time, thinking about myself--
it was almost like that Steven King story, in which a fellow is stranded on an island with nothing to eat but himself, and at first he amputates a leg, and then an arm, until there's hardly anything left--"
He grimaces-- "Jesus, Max, I'm still working on my desert,"
"--sorry. So anyway, I've decided the only way forward,
is to write an entire poem, in the absence of myself--
by creating another character, who will act as narrator.
But the tricky part of it is, that I'm trying to create
a character without a fixed identity--"
"I'm not sure. Who knows, Holland, maybe I've just
gone-off the deep-end; I'd give-it-up entirely, if I could only think of something better to do, with my mind."
"Well, there's something Emerson once said, "We should write ten good lines, and then rest on our oars forever."
--and I think that's wonderful advice, but the problem is, you can't exactly rest on anything, when you're treading water in the middle of the sea. I WOULD quit, if I only could-- even if it meant drowning in that ocean, and being lost forever-- but there's something that compels me, to keep fighting, to keep struggling forward
towards the rumor of dry land-- who knows, maybe it's a promise I made to somebody in another lifetime; maybe it's my dharma. At this stage of my life, I'm well aware of the fact that I'm not much more than a hack, in poetry--
and yet, I am driven to carry forward, swinging a clumsy machete, deep in the dark jungle."
Holland shakes his head. "Jesus, Max, you really know how to punish an analogy. You always were a bit of a
sado-masochist, I suppose..."
"In an age of cruelty, what else could we be?"
"Bah-- I hardly think it's the age that's cruel, Max."