Thursday, March 4, 2010

Where would I be if my father hadn’t died?

I’d have followed his path, engineer, scientist,
working on some secret government rocketry project,
as he had been before he died, according to my mother.
There’s so much I don’t know about him. And now never will.
Even things I remember I wonder if I remember right.

When he died the science door slammed shut. It hurt too much
to do what he had done. Engineering, formulas, machines—-dead
& buried. For me, numbers would not crack the mysterious nut
of existence, of life nor death.

Then I read a story. Oddly, it was about a rocket ship.
Uncle Wayne gave me a collection of science fiction tales
to take my mind off the end of the world as I knew it.

There was one nugget in there about a group of people
who lived in a tall building. They accidentally discovered
that the building was a disguised alien rocket ship designed
to shanghai earthlings back to the alien planet. At the moment
of discovery, the rocket engines started up under the building.

The people ran outside to what they thought was a safe distance away,
but then the ground started lifting off right under them—the whole
entire block was an alien rocket ship, now headed into outer space.

At first I laughed at the surprise of it. Then it sank in.
I saw it as the depiction of a horrible predicament you escape,
then you look around & see you’re still in the middle of it,
& may have no way to get out.

No matter how smart you were, there was always something big & powerful
& unknown going on behind everything.

Storytelling had touched me, frightened & thrilled. Most stories
pretend to have answers to the big questions, because that’s what
people want. But some stories present the truth as a mystery,
too strange to be known. What was the secret of the “fuck you”
scratched on the wall of the Egyptian tomb room at the museum
in Catcher in the Rye? How many times would Brer Wolf throw Brer
Rabbit into the briar patch? Why did Raskolnikov murder the old
woman? In the incident of the stoning of the prostitute, what did
Jesus kneel & write in the sand & then wipe away?

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