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  • Theory of Life on Other Worlds:Contemplating Retirement and Social Security Reform at Shore Line Park
  • Christopher Buckley (bio)

Now, the mild despairs of autumn, and the wind    shrugging its shoulders among the leaves        have me as uncertain as ever-

all those lights discarded across the dark, overworked . . .    I'm just sitting here in my frayed overcoat        of hope, out of range of philosophy

and dialectics, yet a thin music can still be extracted    from a breeze, that same one we felt when        we were happy beside the palms

and there seemed no great injustice at work above us    in the stars. Now, if angels alighted out of the blue,        I'd want to know why

they've taken their sweet time-were they delayed    with some metaphysical/industrial action,        and what, if anything,

do they propose to do about the past? That one with    a Dodger cap on back-to-front, skateboarding        the cliff walk, looping on an edge

of wind, he'd be mocking us, right, flying by without wings?    And the one lighting a Marlboro, his face licked        with flame like a Mexican icon- [End Page 142]

what's that signify, beyond everything holding on briefly    before the dark? There are no trickle-down        arguments for transcendence, and

in their glowing bones, it's not material to them. They could    care less how many years I've been on the job,        wearing these serviceable brown shoes

with heavy soles, my Chairman Mao cap missing its red star.    Industrial/Cultural revolution, it's all old hat,        so far as they are concerned,

and they aren't. These days, I vote for just breathing    evenly, for the social contract and the continuing        resolution with the trees, my membership

card in United Anarchists-if they ever issued one-    having expired. Stars, like every working stiff,        have looked us in the eye all this time,

and the sea birds stalled above the surf, wings tipped out    on the updraft, have no ontological complaints.        And so I don't necessarily see the Search

for Extraterrestrial Intelligence opposing Social Security,    but behind me, the Republican estates with driveways        winding high into the foothills

have me doubting one as much as the other. The sky started out    as mist, the breath of water heading out after light-        rain was just an afterthought, a little pity

after a fashion to keep us productive and in place. But it has yet    to absolve a great indifference to our surroundings.        Air is all we have to breathe; and the sky, [End Page 143]

which we turned into a metaphor, is immaterial, and we have    let it down-all the clichés apply. Once, I could have        explained exactly what I stood for. Now,

beyond radiance or repose, a man's not much more than a    dream on the wind, spray spun up, self-conscious        residue the sea pays out as it goes . . . . [End Page 144]

Christopher Buckley

Christopher Buckley is the author of fourteen poetry books, including Sky and And the Sea (Sheep Meadow), and two books of nonfiction. He has received four Pushcart Prizes, two awards from the Poetry Society of America, a Fulbright fellowship, and two NEA grants. His fifteenth book, Modern History: Prose Poems 1987-2007, is forthcoming from Tupelo Press.



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