A Light-Year of a Dark Mile

Shamrocke

When the world changed
from 6 degrees of separation
to 6 feet,
the longer this change
became a way of life,
the more that distance began to be
measured by time apart.
Children seemed to disappear
like caterpillars
into the cocoons of their homes,
their siblings their only friends;
but for the only child,
Mom & Dad
became their whole world,
other children,
a voice & a face on a screen.
FaceTiming with the grandparents,
whose hugs had become something dreamlike—
the spicy scent of Grandpa’s Clove gum
& wiry whiskers that felt like pine needles,
the intoxicating scent of Grandma’s Charly perfume
& powdery, rouged cheeks that left their mark—
began to fade into something indescribable.

When the World Went Deaf…

DSCF6339

…the music did not die,
but the memory of “Music as It Had Been” passed away
when the present generation slipped from consciousness
forever.

Hands spoke,
and body language and facial expressions bespoke the tone
in this wordless new world.

People began to notice nuances,
for their attention was undivided
by the flapping of flip-flops,
the pitter-pat of raindrops,
the ringing alerts on their electronic devices.
Every wrinkle was remembered;
eye colors were remembered in detail.

Babies born would still cry and babble,
their words without form, but not void,
for everyone spoke the same language now.
Laughter still poured out like candy from a broken piñata,
but the art of language was sometimes lost in translation.

Dexterity in fingers became precise,
pronounced,
like the words that no longer were.
Eyesight sharpened.
Bead workers beaded with ease.
The sound of a pin dropping went unnoticed.

Sheet music—
being an antique form of communication,
an ancient language—
wallpapered bathrooms in Bed and Breakfasts,
even as stringed instrument cases became bassinets
for silver-spoon fed babies.
Cellos were fashioned into lamps,
violins, a curious sort of wall ornament,
and harps, sculptures.
Clarinets, oboes, and piccolos became vases
for flowers whose fragrances sang.
Doorbells became door lights that lit up a room.

Hymns became poetry,
and sermons flashed on a screen.
Movement became the music,
tho’ everywhere sounded like everywhere else.
The great opera houses became stages
for the art of the dance.
Sparklers replaced applause,
and auditoriums were lit up like white dwarves—
a candlelight vigil on carbonation.

Partygoers would place their hands on pianos at dinner parties,
and the musicians remaining from this sensory apocalypse,
would play the notes they knew from bygone days,
for humankind craved vibrations.
Kinetic activities became the new aural pastime.
Musicians were prized for their gift,
for they set the ground on fire with the pulses of their notes—
at decibels not loud enough to shatter eardrums,
but champagne flutes.
Barefoot, the people could feel what they could not hear.

Children outpaced their parents with their communication skills,
becoming the teachers—
the future—
ushering in these latter days,
for the world had adapted to this silent spring.

The clatter of teacups,
the clink of teaspoons,
the shatter of glassware,
the tinkle of silverware,
echoed,
echoed,
echoed.

The taps from dance shoes were pressed into the plaster of the past,
castanets became Christmas ornaments,
and guitar picks and drumsticks ceased to exist.
We no longer shouted to our loved ones in the next room,
for we were already there.

There were smiles and soundless laughter,
for there was joy after a time,
even in the absence of the musical that is life,
bubbling up like an effervescent tablet in a too-full glass of water—
a celebratory champagne.

Those carried away by the waves could not shout,
so mothers watched their children as they swam in the surf.
People began to see things they had missed—
the envy that could not be covered up with flattery,
the lust that declarations of friendship could no longer dispel,
the insecurity of the extrovert who talked to make himself heard.

Radio waves straightened as if blown-dry,
beeps on heart monitors shifted to switchboards reminiscent of a Lite-Brite,
and horns on cars became useless except to scare away the strays.
Dogs became the eyes and ears for the blind,
and fewer went without a home;
fewer children were born,
for so much of the world had lost their collective mind.

Those with schizophrenia heard voices they could not understand—
a scramble in the yolk that was inside their head.
The gestures, the word-scratch on a tablet by a kind nurse,
telling them the voices did not exist,
could not cast out the guttural demons.

In churches, there was the speaking in tongues—
seen, but not heard—
like the blind,
the homeless,
the little children who woke up in the night.

There were telepathic dreams—
visions without voice.
No one heard what they no longer had to.

Some turned to fists and stones,
for the right sign could not be found
to express what filled them up inside.

The day when all the cuckoos in clocks went crazy,
church bells clanged cacophonously,
and thunder boomed impending doom,
was the dawn of The Quiet Earth.

It was the last great symphony
before all went silent,
but not forgotten till the last Hearer died.

Originally published in The Kilgore Review, Pensacola State College, 2017

When the World Became Electric . . .

Lamp

. . . electricity became a controlled substance,
a Schedule II drug,
opening every line of communication.
It became the light of our lives,
for it lit up the world.

Electricity lifted the chill of the winter cold;
it made low the wave of summer heat.
It turned Christmastime into a Wonderland of Light.
It made icy sidewalks and streets wet with rain
glisten with red, yellow, and green.
It brought the outdoor markets inside,
where fruit shone like the wax creations gathering dust
in wooden bowls at Grandma’s house,
where meat in carnivorous red spread out in a cooler
like dismembered specimens in a pathology lab,
and vegetables stayed fresh long after they’d been picked;
the life of everything lengthened,
for there were strawberries all winter long
only to be left to macerate on a counter,
their texture becoming lush and juicy,
bleeding into whatever dessert they topped.

No longer did people have to read by
the flicker of candlelight,
for they could stay up all hours,
reading under a lamp
brighter than the moon,
chatting with friends they’d never met,
playing games with people they’d never know.
There was nothing they couldn’t do,
for the separation of night and day
had blurred like wet chalk lines.

Electricity kept ice cream nearer than any parlor,
waiting to be enjoyed while watching characters on a screen
imitate life (or something like it),
listening to entertainment packaged as news,
or being seduced by The Next Big Thing (as-seen-on-TV).

When the world became electrified,
it made Presidential politics a commodity,
fed an entire generation on fabricated reality,
and made stars from nothing—
propelling them into the celluloid firmament.
It made television larger than life,
funnier,
more dramatic,
and just simply more.

When people sought that which they could not find,
for out of skilled writers did these actors speak,
they took to recording their own lives,
posting for all to see—
seeking validation for that which was the CliffsNotes version
of the life they knew.
There were no more Christmas letters,
no more long-lost friends,
but rather many who should have remained lost.
There was no more wondering what had ever happened to whom;
there was no more mystery.
Lives were documented,
and memories that would’ve faded into the unreliable narratives
of those who’d been there,
were sharper with digital reminders.
No longer was anyone allowed to forget anything.

Electricity brought refrigeration to the world,
keeping the water for our cells cool,
the water for our bodies, warm.

It made the job of the housewife easier,
so that her hands would become as soft as bread dough
allowed to rise all day.
Such plummy hands would no longer hydrate into prunes,
and clothes were scrubbed not,
but washed with spin,
spun to dry.

With the telegraph,
mothers of sons would find out whether their job
had ended on the battlefield,
wives would learn of their widowhood,
and children, their fatherless state.
Days of hope were shortened,
days to heal, lengthened.

The radio would liven up a party with music for dancing
in a room full of conversation;
it would broadcast the news of numerous wars,
the fireside chats of Franklin Roosevelt,
giving confidence to the poor in spirit for this life;
it spread the religion of Billy Graham,
giving hope to those same for the life to come;
it gave baseball scores and boxing moves,
the jingles that became part of American culture;
“The War of the Worlds” by H.G. Welles,
narrated by Orson Welles;
the wartime speeches of Winston Churchill,
the frightening German of Adolf Hitler,
the inspiring words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.;
the music that moved souls like mountains,
and the poetry of Sylvia Plath—
that suicide note of a broken doll,
held together with glue
under the extreme heat
of depression.
Through disembodied voices,
people would call in to a stranger
to be told how to run their lives.

The telephone kept people confined to a place of conversation,
and over coffee and doughnuts a young ingénue would chat with her mum,
who nattered over tea and crumpets somewhere in the English countryside.
The Japanese wife would speak in her childhood tongue
to the grandmother whose wisdom and warmth
would come through in the single sense of speech.
The Navy man who could not bring his wife to his place of deployment,
would describe that same place they would never go together—
this place where their child could never have his special needs met.

Then video chat technology came,
and families could see their loved ones in real time—
their unchanging lives a fluid frame,
bordering the life that was ever-changing.

When the Internet became Something for Everyone,
it gave a voice to the voiceless,
and every writer a platform—
somewhere up in the blogosphere,
floating through the ad clouds.
It made porn portable;
it helped others write
what they could never say.
Everyone became a critic,
and people could preach their hate
through the cloak of anonymity.
They could be anything they wanted to be.

Dates weren’t arranged by Fate,
through Happenstance,
or blindly through friends,
but through algorithms and quizzes and personality tests.
People now knew more about a person halfway across the country
than they did about their own neighbors.
They would find themselves lost in the Twitterverse,
where everyone was always talking at once—
their thoughts succinctly expressed,
only to be buried under a deluge of the next wave of opinions.

Electricity charged the libraries contained in a device,
and phones merged into one’s identity through
pictures, texts, and videos.
The mechanics of typing replaced the art of cursive writing,
and memories become atrophied for lack of use,
for Google became the god of Search and Locate.

Electricity made the world one giant machine that never takes a break,
with its Walgreens, Waffle Houses, and Wal-Marts.
There is no rest or renewal,
for the juices of life flow in a way that is Positively Electric.

Those who should have been dead are kept alive through machines,
non-sentient,
non-autonomous,
their bodies aging even as their consciousness has moved on
to that one-way plane of existence called Elsewhere.

The world became quicker through the Electric Age:
Days becoming hours,
hours, minutes,
for twice the work could be done.

When man manipulated the currents of electricity,
turning it into currency and a Necessity of Life,
making that which could not be held,
but harnessed,
it illuminated the world to every dark thing
that happened in it,
raising the awareness of an entire world.

Originally written as part of the Writer’s Digest Wednesday poetry challenge, using the theme:  Dark

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #436: Comprehensive

Assembly Line Blues

For a time,
they’d known how to put all the pieces together,
until it became more profitable for the Conglomerates
for them to know how to make only one piece.
Then came the day that none of them knew how to make anything,
for the robots did everything.
And so they built the robots–
until the robots were taught how to recreate their own kind.
And the Conglomerates owned the robots,
until the robots owned them,
turning them into what they had been,
even as these bots became what Pinocchio had always dreamed of becoming.

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 436

Poem-a-Day April 2018 Writer’s Digest Challenge #20. Theme: “Earlier Line”

When Art Lost its Tangibility

1000 Years in the Future

With every year that passed,
the world became more senseless.
Crayons disappeared,
markers faded,
colored pencils became dull.
There was no more paint,
no more sculpture.
Music–
created by the computers
or their programmers–
was piped in everywhere,
scattering the thoughts of the populace
as in the world of Harrison Bergeron.

There was a uniformity to everything–
a measure of control in a chaotic world
that sought to make everything smaller,
greener.

For they said the earth had run out of room
for art that took up actual space.
Through computer applications,
a New Art for a New Era was created
by the creators–
as virtual space was infinite space.
Thus the tactile processes of creating art
was lost,
and craft stores had gone the way of
small businesses.
Photographers and graphic designers became
the modern artists.

And so, when batteries died and
the electricity went out,
the art went with it.
And this art that had lost its smell
was but a memory
that no description
could ever do justice,
for human recall was the height
of fallibility.

And when the power grid shut down,
a group of bored children came upon an old schoolhouse
that had not been touched by urban decay,
but by rural depression, isolation, and apathy.
It was in a cobwebby closet that they found
the pencils and the crayons,
yet they knew not what to do with them.

But then one remembered a film from long ago–
saved from the Ban and Burn 100 years before–
where fingers weren’t the tools,
but rather, held the tools.
It was then that human hands reclaimed the functionality
that had once created beauty
(even as the artists of the New Era could only capture
and rearrange it)–
the kind of art that was as messy
as it was beautiful.

And when the power returned forty years later
following The Rebuilding,
the world glowed with screens once more,
but it had become alive again through a New Renaissance.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2018-april-pad-challenge-day-20

When the World Lost its Flavor

Chocolates II

When the world lost its flavor, it lost its savor.

Flowers were as pretty and lifeless as waxed fruit,
freshness dates on food became more stringent,
and chefs became color coordinators as well as plating impressionists.
Smells and tastes were becoming the incomprehensible mysteries of the past.

As the older generation passed away,
so did the memory of what it meant for something to be fragrant or foul,
chocolatey or lemony.

Perfume and cologne became a sort of holy water,
herbs and spices, medicinal,
while sexual attraction lessened.

Babies no longer smelled like lavender and innocence,
but their soft, fleshy folds,
the wispiness of their lingering lanugo,
the warmth from their rapid metabolism,
became more precious.

Plates were arranged in categories of crispy, crunchy, crumbly, creamy.
There was no need for salt or pepper,
which were used for “spicing”—an emerging art form.
Paintings such as The Spice Rack became museum curiosities.

Gone was the awareness of a lingering essence—
the spirit of someone dead embedded in sheets and pillows.
It was as if a wall had come down,
and a part of the world was closed forever.

Life became like watching a movie—
a world of sight and sound.
Loved ones touched more—
the rough stubble of a grandfather’s cheek,
the dewy softness of a child’s hands,
the girlfriend whose hair was like silk threads and spider webs…
such traits were cherished above all others.

Gone was the smell of barbecue on back patios wafting over backyard fences,
and those who investigated the murdered were removed somewhat from the carnage.

Sights and sounds became more extreme;
bakeries shut down,
chocolateries became bars,
and coffee was taken black.

The world shrank and became thinner,
for sweetness had lost its sweet.
Nothing smelled salty or sour or tasted bitter or burned—
that sense of protectiveness against bad food was gone.

There were the sensations of hot peppers and cool mint,
but nuances were no more,
and with them, the memories attached to them.

This loss was the first plague,
even among the deaf and the blind.

With every year that passed,
the world became more senseless,
until all that was left was

Consciousness.

Originally written as part of the Writer’s Digest Wednesday poetry challenge, using the theme:  Senses

#Micropoetry Mondays: Apocalypse

water-76350_960_720

The adults sacrificed themselves,
so their children would have a better life,
even as those same children, as adults,
sacrificed their future for their present happiness.

When all memories of faith in life everlasting disappeared from the earth,
there were those who lived without knowledge of sin,
& those who chased after immortality on Earth.

The State found a purpose for those of unsound mind:
the Lessers, though neither eaten nor hunted,
were denied their medication,
& were unwilling animals in The New Zoo.

He spent the graveyard shift,
watching the hairy underbelly of society scratching themselves–
evidence that the earth decayed during the Dreamtime.

When they had eradicated all genders,
races, & religions–
all in the name of equality–
they had accomplished what Hitler never could:
they had made everyone the same.