The Disappearances

 By Vijay Sephardi 

 "Where was it one first heard of the truth?" 

On a day like any other day,  

like "yesterday or centuries before,"  

in a town with the one remembered street,  

shaded by the buckeye and the sycamore--  

the street long and true as a theorem,  

the day like yesterday or the day before,  

the street you walked down centuries before--  

the story the same as the others flooding in  

from the cardinal points is  

turning to take a good look at you.  

Every creature, intelligent or not, has disappeared--  

the humans, phosphorescent,  

the duplicating pets, the guppies and spaniels,  

the Woolworth's turtle that cost forty-nine cents  

(with the soiled price tag half-peeled on its shell)--  

but, from the look of things, it only just happened.  

The wheels of the upside-down tricycle are spinning.  

The swings are empty but swinging.  

And the shadow is still there, and there  

is the object that made it,  

riding the proximate atmosphere,  

oblong and illustrious above  

the dispeopled bedroom community,  

venting the memories of those it took,  

their corrosive human element.  

This is what you have to walk through to escape,  

transparent but alive as coal dust.  

This is what you have to hack through,  

bamboo-tough and thickly clustered.  

The myths are somewhere else, but here are the meanings,  

and you have to breathe them in  

until they burn your throat  

and peck at your brain with their intoxicated teeth.  

This is you as seen by them, from the corner of an eye  

(was that the way you were always seen?).  

This is you when the President died  

(the day is brilliant and cold).  

This is you poking a ground wasps' nest.  

This is you at the doorway, unobserved,  

while your aunts and uncles keen over the body.  

This is your first river, your first planetarium, your first popsicle.  

The cold and brilliant day in six-color prints--  

but the people on the screen are black and white.  

Your friend's mother is saying,  

Hush, children! Don't you understand history is being made?  

You do, and you still do. Made and made again.  

This is you as seen by them, and them as seen by you,  

and you as seen by you, in five dimensions,  

in seven, in three again, then two,  

then reduced to a dimensionless point  

in a universe where the only constant is the speed of light.  

This is you at the speed of light. 


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