The Day After The End of History: A Birthday Poem
Flit from ATM to ATM as Frey would say “like bees.” Dispensed like a rind,
I fall into the uncanny valley and into the trap-
pings of the post-human. For Leif, fall is when leaves roam free.
So let spring rains ring! In augury, a second inauguration is subject to
a grave. It teases. Rain bows
down over Eldfell. The water brooks nicks in the gate
saying, “I’m not a brook! But a swell.” The word echoes
“Not book!”—A ping? A gong?—“ A torn bell.” Dolphins tormented
the Redskins with a win. Wounded knee. A mark felt
deep in the throat as we leap from this escarpment
Down to the last man. Can’t escape unless we die
and don’t come back. Fat chance. Don’t dote
on the surrounding water or erupting fire.
Withersoever you throw it,
it will stand and weight
the air. Happy is he on the isle of man
whose declamations claim your ear, his hand sawing the air
like a lariat. But twice happier is he whose yarn we believe. So lie
with me amid the national archives in St. Louis, the Summerland amusement center, the Avianca building.
Kingston upon Hull, Kumamoto, Mururoa Atoll.
The world trades its center for dark side of the moon, a solar eclipse, a lab of sky.
If, as troping off the dome, Guru Majaraji says, “Erase
Fuck You Yama from your forehead! You are nothing
but a postage stamp carrying the memory of your tongue
under Soviet nonretroactivity copyright law!”
Then come with me. Enter a common year. It’s Monday. See yourself
In paradise. Tu te reconnaitras! Even as pairs a piece accords.
–T. Clayton Wood
Catastrophes such as the Gulf oil spill highlight this weird paradox that history is at once over and also again repeating itself. Perhaps this dichotomous sense of history isn’t new. But the apocalyptic sense of history’s end injects further urgency into our response to human generated disaster, and in so far as history repeats itself, we are given yet another opportunity to alter our response to and take responsibility for the destruction and loss we heap upon each other and the world. Even though we might be paralyzed by the unimaginable extent of the damage or eventually lulled into complacency by quotidian comforts or our immediate wants and needs, we are nevertheless reminded once again of the tragic consequences of such an incapacity to change. At first, it might seem that writing poems has little to do with oil spills or is, at best, an ineffectual response to such devastation. But, as much as anything, I find the poems in this series, their inherently creative impulse, their vital and ranging resistance to destruction, their need to bear witness and to transform language, perception, and experience, evidence of the kind of hope that makes it possible, against all odds, to believe there is room for new possibilities, which is to say, life.
T. Clayton Wood holds a B.A. in English and Comparative Religion from Columbia University, an M.F.A. in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of California Berkeley. His dissertation is on American Epic focuses on Herman Melville’s Clarel, Louis Zukofsky’s “A”, and Lyn Hejinian’s A Border Comedy. He served as a poetry editor for various magazines and assisted poet laureate Robert Hass with the selection for The Best American Poetry 2001. He has published his poems in several journals, including The Iowa Review, The Atlanta Review, The Canary, and The Nation. He is also co-editor of The Hip Hop Reader (Longman, 2008). Currently, he is an assistant professor of English at Nassau Community College in Garden City, New York.