every day that goes up in flames is a star that falls too early, a star that shines too late; poetry is a metaphor for reality, but they don’t tell you what to do when old metaphors become new truths, when ‘the earth is on fire’ becomes fact, and you’re faced with something – something so expected, so comprehendible, you can’t even begin to shed a tear. every day that goes up in flames is a sliver shaved off of the end of my life, another wood sliver hammered into your coffin; we used to dance to the rhythm of the earth, to the rising, falling tides and the migration patterns of the birds, and now we can’t even hold each other’s hands, we’re so torn apart by these borderlands, and this choking smoke births only bitterness in our mouths, hatred in the place of our hearts. every day that goes up in flames is another soul being lost to our shame, another soul surrendering to meaningless pain; you think you’re so smart but you don’t understand, it was never about evolution or power or race, it was about time and space, a home to heal in without leaving a trace – but the trace you’ve left is a full-body burn scar and the healing ice and cold water have melted away. look into my eyes, and hear my voice on these nights, because it doesn’t have to be this way. every day we walk to save our children from the firelight, to turn reality back into metaphoric poetry, is a day of meaning, an offer of hope and healing, because we can dance to the rhythm again – and it wouldn’t be a miracle. it would be nothing more, nothing less than a simple act of love.
“The earth is on fire” used to be a metaphor.
Something to dramatize, to clarify, something to make things real in the way we understand realness. Now, it’s just truth. Now, the forests burn, the fields burn, the books burn, the waters boil and the plants die and the heat chokes up our perfect, invincible, powerful bodies and there’s no going back.
There’s no going back.
There’s slowing, and there’s adapting, if we care enough to do that. But the fire is here to stay.
“Metaphorically speaking,” you prompt hesitantly. And my first response is to laugh.
“You’re a writer,” I say. “So you tell me.”
You want to tell your grandchildren that you did your best one day – well, have you? “It’s not about you, it’s about us…” This isn’t a relationship. It’s abuse.
You try, I know. But it’s hard for you to understand that simple fact, the simple state of things, because you’re the one in power. You get to choose what you see and don’t see, what you do and don’t do. You get to decide who lives and who dies. And we don’t. With one flick of a brush you unknowingly consign hundreds, thousands, to their deaths before they even lived, before they even got to view this insane, beautiful world with their own eyes, and meanwhile you can’t stop talking about how much you value human life as if the two questions are not the same, as if the answer is not the same. The courts of the world to come will lock you up for child abuse and murder, and you’ll still be as confused as ever. That’s not me, you say before your ancestors. I didn’t abuse my children. I didn’t kill anyone. But you already have.
We are all perpetrators. If I repeat myself ten years from now, will you then understand?
If the words spill out of the mouth of your beloved grandchild, will you then understand?
I know what you’re doing.
I know what you’re doing, and I need you to stop. We need you to stop. I see you scripting your self-fulfilling prophecies and pasting them on the wall, both of us watching as they burn slowly and fill your room with ash. I see you waking up every morning to your own new version of prison, of hell, and you’re like a writer resigned to death row, asking for the pages upon which you sign not your admission of guilt, not your embarrassed apology, not even your suicide note – you just ask to sign your last goodbye. I want to speak to you, to show you that this works, to show you that it can be done and that even if it can’t we have to try, but you won’t see me. You have the right, you say. To not see me.
Well, fine. You have the right to not see me. And you have the right to die. But you don’t have the right to drag me down with you.
Open your eyes and start trying. I still believe in you – even if you don’t.
I don’t know how to talk to you.
I don’t know how but I know that I need to. There is no other way. But when we face each other I can’t figure out how to speak without hurting, how to listen without hurting. I’m afraid – for you, and for me. Listen, you whisper, and I stop listening because I don’t want to hurt, I start speaking because I don’t want to hurt, and you gaze at me with dull, empty eyes. Waiting. Watching.
You listen to me, I say, what’s wrong with you? After all these years you still can’t get it through your thick skull that the sun does not rise for you, that the stars do not shine for you, that this world you live in was never yours. You didn’t create it yet you’re arrogant enough to end it – how stuck-up and entitled can you be? You can’t understand that we are all one, that borders are our failure and our lasting legacy is shame, that hatred is a construct you embraced just to make the story more exciting because all you want is action, all you ever cared for is entertainment, you hold onto your power and pleasure with your dying hands and even the screams of your children won’t convince you to let go.
Maybe I’m the arrogant one. Thinking that I can succeed where your children have failed is absurd. I stop abruptly and you still stare at me in silence, unmoving, unreadable. And behind you the wildfires rage and the books burn and I wish, I just wish you would just turn around to see it but you don’t.
Well go on then, I say. Your turn. Write the next page – pick up your pen and write.
I dare you.
As the human story is being scrawled on the wall by empty, desperate hands I reach for you. Because it’s not too late but it’s also not forever. We write until our hands bleed, until our pencils and pens and paint run out, until our wasted ink pools at our feet like blood. This is it, you say. And I can’t help but laugh.
We’re fools if we think we won’t be stopped. In the realm of eternal life, there is no room for writers.
Still, you keep turning the pages like a reader enraptured by the book, lapping up every word, excited for the next chapter that isn’t there. You shoulder the sky and write your own, urging the story forward precisely when it doesn’t want to, and before you know it you’re writing your own epilogue. Our epilogue. You look back at what you’ve created and only now do you realize: this isn’t a drama. It’s not a fantasy, it’s not a thriller, it’s not even a crime novel. It’s just an utterly predictable tragedy.
“I didn’t mean to,” you say. Well, you wrote it. And you of all people know that stories can’t be taken back.
A-side: Collision Course
that’s something new, I think,
did I really make such a mistake?
I’m sitting now at the top of the world,
looking at everything below –
and tell me,
why did I give it to you?
I meant it as a present and you turned it into a weapon,
a birthday gift transformed into a nuke;
short-minded and oblivious, you chased after “progress”
turning on the treadmill to your doom.
you meant the best, but intentions don’t matter –
at least they don’t anymore;
my data doesn’t lie, so don’t deny,
I gave you fire and you burned me with it!
holding a broken mirror in one hand, you happily pour the gas,
drawing a perfect sphere around your globetrotting feet.
I watch from above as you build your future out of ash –
and put your children in it because it’s just not your problem, you
might as well have stolen from me
because I never gave you the fuel, I didn’t give you the gift
for you to utterly destroy it like this…
well, my mistake. I guess I’ll be the bigger man this time.
creatures who believe that they are gods are worse than demons.
creatures who don’t realize that they are demons are worse than gods.
open your eyes and watch the music playing before you,
and tell me what you see…
dripping from the hilt, your tears
as the world lights up in color;
reaching for a power more explosive than dynamite,
you scream out your willingness to live.
but therein lies the problem, stranger,
it was never for you to decide;
these billions of gods and the spirits who possess them –
can’t you see? you’re powerless!
you’d better stop dreaming or it’ll turn into a nightmare –
so take my words to heart now
put your back to the sun and shatter every mirror,
every single mirror in that wretched house you live.
floating from day to day, you embrace unease
unaware of the shadows moving behind you;
you just want to live, live how you want to live –
ignoring the “one-way” and “no thru traffic” signs.
but didn’t you see the other day,
that beautiful pool in your backyard?
coming for a drink, it was the birds who saw the first ripple
drowning in chlorine-rinse as it turned into waves;
stare into the water and you can’t even see yourself anymore!
and don’t even think about swimming in it –
this artificial world you’ve made is toxic even to you,
you who keeps repeating that “the show must go on”.
don’t fool yourself with all your “expertise,”
even musicians don’t always realize when the music has stopped.
lying on your deathbed, you still believe you can save yourself,
blinded by the ash-driven sunset outside your window.
you take solace in the year-long symbols of your ignorance,
your beliefs as steady as the rising ocean waves –
and you repeat the lies to your children,
who have never seen the color “green,”
who will never know a school of “peace”.
what’s wrong with you?
drawn in by the trap of luxury and ease,
you can’t even see you’ve been caged.
you can’t even see you’ve been caged,
yet you’re perfectly content staring into the mirror
and believing that all life is happy…
I won’t call you a fool.
After all, who among you would listen to me?
It is easy to become bitter, on this path. It is easy to point fingers to declare others hypocrites to be angry at those who deny those who don’t care those who embrace ignorance and to blame those who refuse to see, who are blind willingly… But playing the blame game serves us nothing – because we are all trying to do our best and systems necessarily corrupt the people who live in them the same way that people corrupt the systems they create – there is no one to blame but an abstract “us” but even then the achievement does nothing except throw the problem back in our face; So if it is useless, if it is divisive, if it is distracting – then bitterness cannot be the way. It must not be, if we are to hold onto our hope.
It’s not about it being easy – though I understand your feelings when you say that. Solutions to this devastation we have wrought will not be easy. Solutions to our new brand of tragedy will not be easy. “Fixing” this is not supposed to be easy – but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. Every day we go about our lives searching for the familiar, simple routes taking the paths that will require the least energy and the least work… Even when we try the other paths, we stop when we are “satisfied” whatever that means and why? When it comes to many things, this way of life is fine… But when it comes to this? Is it acceptable? Is anything short of everything acceptable? We bear it on our shoulders, after all. It was born out of our own selfish pursuit of “easy” – wasn’t it?