Friday, June 16, 2017

Factory of Souls

It takes just two people to bring the world
to ruin. So goes the history of love.
At the end of the day we tally the casualties
of war, victory for the one who gets wounded
the least. You say it’s time for a change
but I don’t know to what end, change being
just the skin of some incandescent creature
whose grotesque beauty is what we adore,
whom some people call love, whom we
venerate because it consumes us, slim pickings
for its huge soul. My people say, don’t look
or you’ll go blind. You say the end was always
just around the bend. I say all we have
is unconditional surrender to the future.
So unreliable is the past that I feel compelled
to leave unmourned the blind, relentless loves
that may have scorched into our hearts
the way the saints accepted stigmata. My people say,
look back or lose your way. Or, walk backwards,
if you can. So I found myself on a bus to New York City
to lose myself completely. Past Hunters Point
we hit the factory of souls—a thousand tombstones
from which a silk-like canopy of smoke rose to meet
God knows what—a spacious emptiness, the end.
I’ve heard the world’s never going to end.
I’ve heard it will go on and on, and we will be
as nebulous as Nebuchadnezzar, our live
not worth a footnote, our grandest schemes
no more than feeble whispers, all memory
shifting like the continental plates. In the future,
all science will finally come around; genetic
engineering, I’ve been told, will be all the rage,
and we will be a super race in a world
infallibly perfected, where trains run on time,
love never dies, and hope can be purchased
by the pound. It’s called immortalization
of the cell lines. We will choose what will survive.
Our destiny made lucid, we will find the world
contemplating itself, like the young Narcissus,
one hand about to touch the pool, his body
lurched towards that marvelous reflection.
I suppose we’ve always felt compelled
to desensitize our failures. My people say,
to go unnoticed, you play dead. I myself
may have chosen to forget a face, a name,
some cruel word uttered carelessly, but not,
after all the harm is done, intending any pain.
And many others may have chosen to forget me.
It works both ways. My people say, nasa huli
ang pagsisi: regret is the final emotion.
It’s what you see when you look back.
It’s what’s no longer there.

from: Zero Gravity, Copyright 1999.

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