Saturday, March 10, 2012

Y2K

I'm puzzled that the world didn't end.
I think of history as a gaudy balloon
whose surface squirms with special
effect images, but inside it's foul
with the stench of gulags and beer
hall messiahs.
It's so hard to see what's real
with all the shit flying in the air
as the capitalist cyclone erects
world markets and economic boom.

I sit on the sixth floor across from Battery Park
writing computer manuals for the Empire.
The Statue of Liberty hemorrhages in a window
looking out on the last day of the century.
The warheads don't fly. The banks stay open.
Wall Street is safe. A relieved sigh
swells inside the throats of newsmen
tired with one more day of packaging the news.

If it doesn't pay, it's not real. Lies within
lies wrapped in a commercial.
Hollywood Babylon rules
the corporate unconscious...
we are what we watched.
Art now means a way to sell
something to somebody
who's already drunk with too much.

So what if I imagine more blood
in the sunset than my peers...
I'm just a hack writer for the Machine
with as much need
for a dollar as the next guy,
and a growing fear I don't
have the right information
I need to keep up.

What seemed like love one day becomes a prison,
and the one you loved's
a stranger who'll kill you
and himself for a ticket on
the paradise express.

Finding what's worth dying for is uncertain, trembling
like the body of your lover as she orgasms
in your ear and tells you
how forbidden love is. Her husband's
stolen her art and money,
and he lives in the cellar with a gun
waiting for her to crack. Are we all
hostage to demented love?
Reduced to dirty marriages,
rape farms, and rampage
under cover of night that deposits bodies
in unmarked graves?

History can't penetrate us
the way an organ or knife does,
it envelopes us and sends
the news across the galaxy.
We link one end of Armageddon
with another and hear nothing
but hysteria and the bizarre ranting
of a society addicted to its power
to make the trains run on time. 

* "beer hall messiah" was a term used for Hitler before he rose to power.
* "rape farm" is a variant of "rape camp," being investigated in 1999 as a means of war terror in Croatia and Serbia, during the Balkan wars. The term, "dirty marriage," was used derogatorily to denote the rape of women in these camps by the men.

This is an unpublished poem written in Jan 2000 submitted for the dVersePoets poetics prompt on 1999. The poem was written at the turn of the millennium, looking back on 1999 and the preceding century. I hope I'll be forgiven for stretching the rules of the prompt in this way.

(c) copyright 2012 Charles David Miller. All rights reserved.

25 comments:

  1. damn man....some grit in this...the stanza on the lover, her husband...is tight...as is art is now a means to sell...sold out..and being just another cog in the machine permeates this from top to bottom...but maybe just a bit different view from where you sit...

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  2. i love how you go from the seen, the place in battery park where you sit, the real events to fantastic imagery...esp. the part with the husband, living in the cellar, waiting fo her to crack...dang..tight write indeed

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  3. Charles, I remember the fears too. Was pretty scared myself, and now I think.....why? But the fears were real. But Wall Street WAS safe. We WERE safe. The world didn't end. So many had those fears, and now I think they were so irrational, but they didn't seem so then. There is always another Armageddon on the horizon (as you said). I ignore them, but this one captured me. But...we are all still here. A thoughtful write!

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  4. Fantastic poem..powerful, brilliant biting humour,staccato delivery. I do not do it justice with such a brief commentary.It addresses a myriad of issues in such a short piece( hard to do). Chapeau!

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  5. This is a perfect take on the prompt; I don't like rules, anyway.

    These sections are particularly gripping:

    "Hollywood Babylon rules
    the corporate unconscious...
    we are what we watched"

    "like the body of your lover as she orgasms
    in your ear and tells you
    how forbidden love is. Her husband's
    stolen her art and money,
    and he lives in the cellar with a gun
    waiting for her to crack. Are we all
    hostage to demented love?"

    Love the husband in the cellar waiting for her to crack. We're all one step away, right? :)

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  6. You really did take me back, yet in a sorry way, that time is every time, and very much with us--atrocities change names and faces but have the same souls, greed feeds on greed until it explodes into a million little greeds that swallow each other up in an endless process, and the human face of love is behind every mask a blank stone eyed statue....on a bad day, anyway. An excellent and encyclopedic write, Chaz--a tour of the 1,999th circle of Hell.

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  7. Wasn't Y2K a dud? Your poem is way cool. I like lines like "Art now means a way to sell
    something to somebody
    who's already drunk with too much." Yea, the world is full of capitalist shit.

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  8. "we are what we watched" - still true, huh? ;-)

    charles, so powerful, i could practically smell the innards of those balloons, and that's a compliment

    i remember that 1999 feeling too, just the fact you wrote about it, right then, as the century turned, is encouraging to me, not sure why - maybe cause we've survived it?

    fantastic look at that aspect of life then, thanks charles!

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  9. Wow... rough and real. I remember the Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia war, it was dreadful. When we won the 2nd world war I saw video of the concentration camps and everyone said 'This will never happen again' And in the Balkan wars there it all was, men behind barbed wire, starving and being killed.
    This is such a powerful write Charles in so many ways and many people were scared of what might happen (or not) when we reached 2000. Now, it is Dec 21st this year and I think this time the hype will be even bigger with the internet and 24 hours media coverage all over the world now and big business won't waste a minute trying to get everyone's money using fear buy now because, of 'what if'

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  10. i really like these lines a lot (well, i like the whole thing...but these lines especially)


    the stench of gulags and beer
    hall messiahs.

    I'm just a hack writer for the Machine

    demented love?
    Reduced to dirty marriages,
    rape farms

    We link one end of Armageddon
    with another and hear nothing
    but hysteria
    **************
    BTW verification makes it really hard to comment. you'd get more comments if you turned it off

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  11. This is tight as hell.

    "So what if I imagine more blood
    in the sunset than my peers... "

    Just incredible.

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  12. This is a great piece of writing, Charles. Strong stuff!

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  13. Well, yes, it was an ebullient time! (Well-expressed.) k.

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  14. you wrote this in 2000? Amazing that things haven't improved much - sad, too.

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  15. This seems a theme in so many of the poems I've read:

    "What seemed like love one day becomes a prison,"

    I know it was for me then.

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  16. My first response to the prompt was to do what you do, go back and try to exhume something from the time, but nothing quite fit as I remembered it, or needed to at the moment ... '99 was the year I switched from my 18-year job at the local newspaper to that of a writer/designer hack for a bean-counter professional association, so the altitude you write from is very resonant. And remember so well the divide between the imagined holocaust of the Millennium Bug (catastrophic to commerce if nothing else) and the merciless siege of Sarajevo, a violence not against the wallet but the soul. What's changed, with the corporations a-jitter over hackers and other cyber-crimes yet indifferent to the slaughter of Syrians by their own government, or the overwhelming economic dispossession of the American middle class by their own hand? With time at warp-speeds (who remembers the movies released two weeks ago?), the chilling sense here is that we suffer even worse the repetitions of the past. Same shit, diff'rent day. -- Brendan

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  17. This is something...that you were able to bring it forward from 2000 to share in this prompt is really special. I enjoyed this read, as hard as it was, and I'm thankful for your defining the terms you used. Great poem, thanks for sharing.

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  18. Lies within lies was great. Many are ruled by stupid Hollywood and their crap, as they play on fears to try to sell their movies and product endorsements and all that garbage. Always need something to flap about with their doom and gloom, you captured it great.

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  19. Goddamn- I totally relate to this one- especially the way you describe yourself in reLation to your employement- this is how I feel everyday - like an actor- like soon someone will find out that actually I'm just doing what I need to do to get paid. And you are right- if it doesn't pay- it doesn't count (to the soulless) and I feel sorry for these people stuck on their career ladders with absolutely no feeling or knowledge of the true beauty and 'value' of the world around us- am I starting to rant? Possibly! Loved this chaz- as much as I love your new beard....:)

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  20. Captures well that time of reflection

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  21. Whew Charles...I like your rant or prose on the ills of our society. I must tell you though that the 6th verse gave me the chills. There are certain realities I don't want to talk about because it consumes and overwhelms me. But you do a fine job of writing it down in black and white ~

    Happy day to you ~

    (aka Heaven)

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    Replies
    1. Hi Grace, I think of it not so much as a rant as a diatribe, even jeremiad. The diatribe is a classical form of address used by Cynic philosophers in their attacks on Roman social ills, amongst other things. It's also been found in some Pauline letters from the NT. Ergo, my linking of it to the jeremiad, a much more forceful use of the form. As for whether it's poetry or prose - it's been hammered to fit into the cadences of everyday speech, though thatbis notvthe strongest argument.

      I'm not sure what verse you refer to. Is it the one about beer hall messiahs. If so, your statement leaves me in the dark. I think you meant to writr sixth stanza, whose subject I might begin to believe what you found so objectionable in it.

      Many thanks for your comment. I am grateul you felt it worthy of response.

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    2. Yes, I meant the 6th stanza, about the unmarked graves. Thanks for the additional notes. I am happy to see you being a regular at the D'verse Poets Pub. You are very generous with your comments and very supportive of other's work ~

      See you ~

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  22. I add my voice to those in praise of this piece. I suppose nature somewhere takes us off the knife-edge emotions we have when we are young, when we put our actions where our beliefs are and have the courage to act or write about them. Age distances us or I should isolates us, we keenly know the horrors exist and we try to insulate ourselves from the ghastly, murderous, grisly repetitions that can't help but shock. Then one reads a piece such as this and the sense of injustice flares and to some extent one's continued impotence to protect the innocent and undeserving from it. Good that it's here, good that we read it; every so often complacency needs to be goaded out of the way.

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  23. There's not much here with which I can find fault; it's either true (in my opinion) or one of my nightmare certainties that some day it will come to be. You have given coherent expression to whole gamut, though - and that is no mean feat. I found it compelling. (Didn't know Hitler was the beer hall messiah, though.)

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