Sunday, March 29, 2009

Forbidding... lots of stuff

Um, yeah, so everyone has some electoral aftermath, I imagine. Mine consists of 4 hours of sleep. But the fact that my ass is flat doesn’t compare to the numbness of 2000, when I was stranded in a very red state (blue today), watching the gutless campaign that Gore ran bear fruit. Nor the weariness of 2004 (after an equally somnolent effort from Kerry), when I was alone in a hotel room in D.C., and I knew exactly what type of stuff was coming down the pike for the next four years, and it fell to my free copy of good ‘ol banal USA Today to confirm the next morning that it was all going to suck.

But today is not then. No more hunkering down in a cultural bunker with all news forbidden except the New Yorker, Fresh Air, and the local independent weekly, venturing out only for arts podcasts and The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. (Sorry, guys. I know that Obama and Biden will be less rich material than McCain and Palin.)

So, as a sort of valedictory gesture, I thought I’d round off your afterglow with a poem from William Carpenter’s Rain (ridiculously out of print, but grand) that handily summarizes the presiding spirit of what we didn’t choose last night:

Military Secrets

This morning we drive over the blueberry barrens,
the downeast landscape cold even in August,
the workers bent over their orange or yellow rakes.
From the high ridge, we can see Cutler Harbor
and the transmitter towers, ranged in a circle
on the shore, like Stonehenge, like something left
here by aliens, so they could control us
from their own planet, making us sing Don Giovanni
or destroy ourselves with little particles,
whatever happens to please them at the time.

Our guide wears the chic uniform of today's Navy.
His speech is relaxed and easy, slightly southern.
The most powerful transmitter in the world, he says.
It can reach submarines at fifty fathoms.
Its waves do not travel through the air, but through
the earth itself. With this we could speak to a man
in the Pacific Ocean. We could tell him now, or not yet,
and he would hear us as if right in his own room.

Dogs go insane from this frequency. Their mouths foam.
They try to climb trees or lamp posts to escape.
Even some people hear these vibrations as sound:
one in a hundred thousand. To them, the air fills
with a hum, or cry, as of a great migration of birds,
and they look up, expecting to see something,
perhaps a brightening of the entire sky, or,
out on the water, a shape, not a Poseidon missile,
but a human hand. To these few people it would
look like that, the way the arm reached up
in Malory's Morte Darthur, and caught the sword,
whirling, out of the air and took it down.

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