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Page 228

Poetry – a good way to kill time. Between moments
of poetry – dead time. But enough about me –
that is, time and eternity. Do you come here often?
I'll bet you can't guess my sign (he says, hoping
her sign is "YIELD," not "STOP".) (My first marriage
was largely my failed attempt to guess her sighing.)

Let us consider the similarities of a singles bar
to Hell. (It should be easy for me to consider,
since I've never been to one. I don't even go
to doubles bars. But I've been alone – there's
my Garbo (anagram of bar-go) voice: I've been alone.
And in my days of childhood candy greed, I went to
Hershey bars, but that's an old pun, isn't it,
looking for Mr. Goodbar. Nuts!)

Hell, I think, is where the worst torment is immortality.
Where immortality is torment, we try to shut down
consciousness; briefly getting results from tiny winking
bubbles of booze, even more briefly, in the oblivia
of orgasms and soused sleep – but these and their attendant
small cruelties accumulate until eternity seems conquered,
and hours, days, years rush past, untasted, forgotten, lost.

But eternity lurks in ambush: Lost weekends are followed
by the interminable seconds of hangovers, when every crack
in the ceiling must be tasted, swallowed, regurgitated;
every discoloration, every grunt of not-distant-enough
traffic become as solid as a fist, every spoken word
pushing outward from mid-brain like a tumor.

Even years lost to drugs, smoky rooms, blue-sparkled
ice cubes, must, at some point, be repaid. We build up
mountains of debt owed to eternity. We try to refuse to know
that we are. But contrary to the current escapist fad
that mourns (pretends to mourn) the coming death
of all that lives (and some say that coming is a death in itself),
death is neither end nor escape: for every deadening
must come a quickening.

The fury of a demon is its rage at being stirred
to awareness that it is still alive, poor ember.
Even the stone you kick down the gutter
only HOPES it is not alive (sullen, stony hope),

caught up in hectic, disjointed dreams. By jerking one's head
rapidly from side to side, one can keep interrupting
an unthinkable thought to prevent it from being, after all,
thinkable; such are the jillion contrary motions
of a stone's molecules that hold it in dream-stasis
by their mutually canceling randomness – a dream
of not being for aeon after Brownian aeon.

Note: Stanza 2: Garbo voice: She is associated with the words "I vant to be alone." "Goodbar" – referring to a novel, Looking for Mr. Goodbar, dealing (as I vaguely recall) with single women looking for company of men at singles bars. But "Mr. Goodbar" is the brand name for a candy bar similar to a Hershey Bar with peanuts.

Last line: "Brownian aeon" – refers to Brownian motion of very small particles – the "jillion contrary motions" earlier in the last stanza. In other words, the stasis of an object for aeon after aeon because of the randomizing motions and collisions of the small particles of which the object consists.

Stanzas three through seven of this poem have a lot to say. I hope they say it. For starters, this is a pretty damned good definition of hell, maybe not so far from Augustine's (Hell is an absence of God -- or the variation on that -- absence of love): "Hell, I think, is where the worst torment is immortality". You can generate the rest of the poem from that line, or generate your own.

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