Factory of Souls
It takes just two people to bring the world
to ruin. So goes the history of love.
At the end of the day we tally the casualties
of war, victory for the one who gets wounded
the least. You say it's time for a change
but I don't know to what end, change being
just the skin of some incandescent creature
whose grotesque beauty is what we adore,
whom some people call love, whom we
venerate because it consumes us, morsels
for its huge soul. My people say, don't look
or you'll go blind. You say the end was always
just around the bend. I say all we have
is unconditional surrender to the future.
So unreliable is the past that I feel compelled
to leave unmourned the blind, relentless loves
that may have scorched into our hearts
the way the saints accepted stigmata. My people say,
look back or lose your way. Or, walk backwards
if you can. So I found myself on a bus to New York City
to lose myself completely. Past Hunters Point
we hit the factory of souls - a thousand tombstones
whose subterranean chambers manufactured
the silk-like smoke that we must feed to God.
I don't think the world's ever going to end.
I think it will go on and on, and we will
be as nebulous as Nebuchadnezzar, our lives
not worth a footnote, our grand schemes
no more than insidious whispers, all memory
shifting like the continental plates. I should grieve
for time misspent, love returned to sender,
ambitions gone awry. But bards more sage than I
have seen the folly of our loss - and have sung
more dirges than I can bear. In the future,
perhaps all science will finally come around;
genetic engineering, I hear, will be all the rage,
and we will be a super race in a world
infallibly perfected, where trains run on time,
love never dies, and hope can be purchased
by the pound. They call it "immortalization
of the cell lines." We will choose what will survive.
Our destiny made lucid, we will find the world
contemplating itself, like the young god
who held his breath and found Narcissus,
the beautiful rapt face all sparked with awe,
one hand about to touch the pool,
his body lurched towards that marvelous
reflection. I suppose the human race
has always felt compelled to desensitize
its failures. My people say, to go unnoticed,
you play dead. Or something. I myself
(and here is the part where even this poem
stops in its tracks to contemplate that pool)
may have chosen to forget a face, a name,
some cruel word uttered carelessly, but not,
after some reflection, intending any pain.
And many others may have chosen to forget me.
It works both ways. My people say, regret
is the final emotion. It's what you see
when you look back. It's what's no longer there.