- 17. Eternal Return
We have set up our rickety slings of aluminum and strap, but the parade is not coming: the shouters, the vulvic dancers, the somersaulting dogs—nothing but phantasms of memory and hope. And everywhere around us the wreckage of our erased life: paper palms wilting over ruptured hull spines, police cars in twisted pylons, faux emeralds glinting along evacuated boulevards. All this, and still: our beers in their foam overcoats, our feet up, flip-flops in the dust, our tremors of anticipation and yearning. We know, we know, we know, we know—no one has to tell us. The Persian howlers have been driven off, the goddesses and kings, the cello thumpers and public masturbators—all equal exactly to the shadows of dust motes, the scent of obliteration, the exhortations of rain-pelted butterflies. We have been found insubstantial, flattened by a global fist, our poetry redacted to prepositions by a committee of the forgetful, our dreams retooled for maximum productivity, then junked. When it comes, it will be the desert of Nothing-doing! It will be the vacuum of Stop-I-said! We will be forbidden to return to our domestic romps. But still we ride on our straps above the pavement, still we toot our paper horns. All of our waiting, all of our yearning won't budge an electron, and yet here we are: millions of us, expectant, eyes open.
Stephen O’Connor has published three books: Rescue (fiction and poetry), Will My Name Be Shouted Out? (memoir) and Orphan Trains (history). He teaches in the writing MFA programs of Columbia and Sarah Lawrence.