The Distant Future


they are sending a rocket to europa
with spectrometers and cameras.
there is liquid water under twenty kilometers of ice
there may be some life! he watches as the lecturer
waves his hand at the projector screen of charts and graphs.
a boy in the front row wearing a rabbit-eared hat
wipes snot on his sleeve and shouts
that sounds really expensive!

they are sending a rocket to europa
he is sitting in her living room with a plate of cold pasta
as she recites the usual explanations
the one thousandth thousandth assurance that
he’s a good guy, really

they are sending a rocket to europa
they are dancing together
he clings to her body, her warmth
so close and familiar and
already three hundred and ninety point four
million miles away
underneath twenty kilometers of ice
drifting far away in the
infinite vast of space

The Distant Future

(a story of her)

she is capable. she discovers her own strength. she lives at the watermill, gathering water in a wooden pail. she is not the miller's daughter. she is not of this country. her bare feet touch grass as she walks to the riverbank. there are little yellow butterflies.
she is sick with sadness.
another is a man who comes from a distant time. he has lived a long time but he is not old. his face is as chiseled stone and his eyes are dead white. his memories of a different world haunt him. she will encounter this man during a time of upheaval. there will be uncertainty.
he does not believe in the gods of her people.
in the next part of the story they are together. they have a quest they must fulfill. there are adversaries at every side who try to thwart them. It is dangerous. It seems impossible. Why are they on such a quest? something great is at stake. she believes that it is something greater than themselves. he believes in nothing. only the quest sustains him.
of course there must be a sacrifice. there can be no meaningful triumph without an accompanying great loss. he will die. he will perish so that she might live to fulfill the quest. she will wonder if he ever believed in anything, if he came to believe in some greater purpose in his final hour. he didn't.
of course there must be doubt. she must question her purpose and almost relinquish. enemies will confuse her and discourage her and she will believe their words. she will abandon the quest. she will stop cherishing delusions.
but his sacrifice will inspire her at last. in her final moments of doubt she will think of it. and in so doing conclude that she must continue, though not for her sake and not for his, but for the sake of an idea.
of course she must fail. she will be defeated at last by adversaries that had always been too powerful for her to vanquish.
of course she must, in the end, triumph. the initial defeat only serves to steel her resolve. she is unconquerable. her will is idominatable. she strikes down her foes and faces her final adversary.
of course that adversary must be herself. this is usually done with some kind of metaphor. such as a mirror or a strange doppleganger. but in this story there is no visage. her final adversary is simply the doubt and fear of failure that holds her back. she must learn an important lesson. there must be a moral to the story. the moral must be uplifting, even if the ending is not.
the ending is not uplifting.
she survives but remains a broken and crippled shell of her former self. she returns to the water mill and her bare feet touch the grass. she sees the wooden pail upturned on the porch and picks it up to gather water.
there are little yellow butterflies.
The Distant Future

(day 91)

at the coffee shop

outside, yellow leaves, dull silver skies, rain.
the city bus slides across the glistening asphalt
a woman rushes down the avenue huddled in her raincoat clutching her purple umbrella.
im seated across a thirtysomething with an open macbook and a bowl-sized cup
and in between us an infinity of air
beside her the lady with white hair and red jacket packs up her bag
and no sooner has stood and she is replaced by two college students with their thick framed glasses and ironic sweaters
a couple beside them with dark eyes and black jackets and the next seat over a professor wipes his glasses and scribbles on a notepad
and the matriarch with with the dangling murmurring in spanish to the youth in the plaid shirt
i can hear the coffee grinder
i can hear the thirtysomething playing with her hair
i can feel strangerness and aloneness and foreverness and the cool air rush in
when someone opens the door to come in or out
there are tiny pumpkins and yellow gourds decorating the wooden counters
there is an infinity of air
there is the strangerness
there are all of these stories and people and there is rain and yellow leaves just beyond the glass
a man in a weatherbeaten jacket lifts the tiny cup of cortado to his nose and inhales deeply
where are we truly?
where are we going?
what is this life, passing?
am i watching a film of a life occur or am i really here?
what does it mean to be here and what do we become when we step out of the glass door and into the rain?
what is this aloness and this strangerness and this infinity of air?
will i remember the matriarch murmurring spanish to the youth in plaid, will I remember the way the professor rubs his brow ponderous as he flips through the yellow pages?
will i remember the thirtysomething in her salmon striped sweater? will i remember anything
when my body breaks at last
and i succumb

The Distant Future

(day 76)

there's nothing for it tonight
neither hot tea of my favorite kind nor encouraging words from internet friends
nor the single beer i drank alone at the old bar with its dim light and stale smells
nor the walk in the brisk october night
nor any amount of self consolation
can lull the hurt tonight, the hurt who will not be silenced
who will not be satisfied and who, in his disquiet,
swells and boils and becomes a hairy and disgruntled beast
of yellow eyes and jagged teeth
gobbles me up whole and spits out the bones
for the dogs to bury in the snow

The Distant Future

(day 72)

no i will not fall here,
sequestered in the wood
among the waterfalls and the ancient pipelines adorned with graffiti
among the brown leaves sinking under my pounding feet
and the barren branches of yesterday trees rushing past
i will not fall here, not without a fight
i will fight and i will lose but i will fight until the end
take in the burning oxygen
feel it white hot inside my chest beating to bursting
let my tears blaze back across my face like smoldering acid
leave a trail of anguish and longing and confusion and loneliness
i don't care!
do you hear me!
i will never stop fighting!
run this body ragged
tear it apart, break it down
until there is no breath left in my lungs and my legs buckle underneath me
even then i will crawl
dig my fingers in the dirt, creep among the soil and stones like a useless worm
until the light goes out!
until there's nothing left!
i will lose i will lose i will lose i will die here i don't care don't care don't care
damn it all!
i will keep fighting! i'll never stop!

The Distant Future

(twenty good things about me)

i tie my shoelaces quick and i can sow a button on
at the fall festivals and pumpkin farms i can shuffle me feet along the leaves
i always pick the best apples from the tree
i can hum the bar to that song that plays in the coffee house
while students in their sweaters stare at laptops and let their paper cup lattes go cold
i always drink my cider piping hot and i look ok in a knit hat
i always kiss like i mean it because i always do
and open the car door to let you in
when the wind is blowing hard enough, i know the words
i plant watermelon seeds into air
and i pull lemons from your hair
i can dull a pencil with my sighs
i can cry for four hours straight and still make it to work on time
i can doowop and shimmyshake i always make a decent second pancake
my fingertips smell like lemon rinds and i have excellent taste in church gargoyles
i can make intelligent conversation on the subject of mincing garlic
i can ward off vampires and make lasagna
i can bawl my eyes out in the afternoon if you stroll down the avenue and whistle a tune
i can tie my shoelaces quick and i can tell you what triskadekaphobia means
The Distant Future


i heard it in the night, i felt it in the air
i knew it in the familiar electricity of your caress
i feel the shifting ground, i dread the lonesome sound
thar silent lullaby that lulls me to unrest:
the indifferent rythmns of distant cars, the wind whispering in the dark
the incantations of nighttime insects at their black art
i wear disquiet on my skin, the walls are closing in
i sweat i cry i want i need i scream

i shift and twist in vain, cradle my body around the pain
upon this bed of fire like Prometheus chained
remember that sweet spring wind, the scent of hyacinths
the light of day upon the waterfall shining
and every beautiful thing
shouts your name

holy holy
the nights only terrify, i wake i don't know why
it's 4 am and i cannot still my raging mind
i'm hot, i'm burning, i'm shivering, i'm shaking and i'm withering
i cannot forgive the sacrosanct hours of useless weeping

Oh, prayers don't fail me now, vomit out my blubbering mouth
all the temples and the idols come tumbling crumbling down
disquiet on my skin, the walls are closing in

i sweat i cry i want i need i scream
blessed is the emptiness, vast and without forgiveness
blessed is he who endures and never perishes
remember those moonlit walks, somewhere among the ghostly rocks
i stumbled tumbled and dropped my beating heart
its there still
bleeding out your name

holy holy
i wander the world a ghost, another spirit lost
took a wrong turn down the coast and it was for the worst
my body's tight with hurt, feels like there's serpents in my guts
my hungry hands digging like catterpillars in the dirt
the weight of the cosmic vast, the movements of the stars en masse
the insignificance of suffering at long last

disquiet on my skin, repentance sinking in
i sweat i cry i howl i vow
rather than be cast whole into the lake of fire
i must cut out your name

The Distant Future

(rites of autumn)

check my phone for your call
afternoon, the trees prepare for fall and
squirrels sequester their harvests
in the town market
pumpkins have made their encroach
these are the days i
bawl my eyes out for hours and hours
wake from dreams of you in the darkest hours of morning
remain in bed far too long like a rotting vegetable
stare and stare at the little window
squirrels destroy my flowers, invade my little room through ducts
check my phone for your call, for your message on the wall
outside the little window a woman in a knit hat and a scarf parades her latte
the squirrels open my body with their little teeth
sequester their harvests in the cavity of the place where you used to be
bawl my eyes out for hours and hours
wake from dreams in the darkest hours
check my phone for your call
check my phone
i want out
i want out
i want