- The Third Pig, and: Soft Targets
The Third Pig
Anyone can smell it coming, rank meaty breath and ticking claws. Hindsight’s so enhanced prescience you apprehend the end before due credit’s claimed or blame assigned to splinter groups as yet unnamed. Warned, you make escape provisions, hoard water and electric tape, surf uninterrupted broadcasts, test batteries and buy a gun. Car alarm crescendos summon first responders, rotors hammer telegraphic reassurance— got it got it got it got it— but something’s up, the anchorman makes semaphores of frowns and grins that contradict his scripted news, agenda none but you discerns. Each day’s a cautionary tale you listen to, a child again, mesmerized by Dad exclaiming Wolf! to villagers once-bitten into doubt, Chicken Little’s squawks against the imminent collapse, the mine canary whistling one inquiring note into the dark, then pausing to inhale, and wait. [End Page 119]
Everything’s amiss: the briefcase Time forgot, documents erased, Suspicious mail, malingerers Giving cameras the finger. The cia director prays; Our President’s on holiday. The news conveys scenarios Rehearsed by impresarios Of fear; we watch them entertain, Enrapt by images of pain Not ours, but others’ to endure. Vigilance makes us insecure, Unnerved by fellow citizens Surveilling us. I listen in On cell phone arguments and read My seatmate’s laptop e-mail screed Against her boss; my hooded eyes Feign sleep, a patriotic spy’s.
We pass through towns to meadowlands: Miles of reedy marsh, abandoned Highway trestle going nowhere, Quonset hut and boarded-over Cinderblock a polar outpost Inhabited by fog or ghost. One heron stalks its blackened pond. The shadow city flickers on, Horizon dark—no guarantees. Each day deranges certainty. We’re told to shop, buy homes, invest, Our capital divinely blessed, Then quail whenever power fails. Authority’s provisional; Obituaries of Marines— [End Page 120] Assured, invincible, nineteen— Make trivial our politics, Our well-fed appetite for tricks That blind and gag the populace. Whatever plan our god creates Cannot contain the human flame Of faiths igniting in his name. These meadowlands will burn and rise Without us, barren paradise Where stadiums such worship built Erode from monuments to silt.
Our train arrives in Hoboken Intact, nothing bombed or broken. The loudspeaker’s imperious— Remove your personal effects— As if we’ll be identified Post-true-believer’s-suicide By newspaper and coffee cup, Ticket, backpack, comb and makeup, Wallet photographs of children. My daughter’s voice beneath the din Pipes up, unbidden as a bird’s, Her absence present in each word, Like air where motes in sunlight glow Alone, recombine as shadow. Where are we going? I don’t know; Someplace safe where none will follow. Who will be waiting? Everyone From home is gone, we’re on our own. Why? I can’t explain, there isn’t Time. Don’t worry, honey: listen— [End Page 121]
George Witte’s poems have appeared most recently in Ploughshares, Shenandoah, Southwest Review, and Virginia Quarterly. His book, The Apparitioners, is available from Three Rail Press.