The Silence

Off the blue marble come mosaics of radio waves,
in hopes of communication with residents of deep space,
or travelers on expedition who might need a cool drink
and a chat at an earthly waystation. In the mirror,
we confess and are broken. Kurtz massacred his
recalcitrant subjects as Leopold II so deftly did
before him. “Innocent of what?” the judge asked
Joseph K, and the purged generals who were shot
in Moscow still shouted “Long Live Stalin!” as the metal
burned into their torsos. But there are minor proletariats,
disguised as penitent revolutionaries, who see the suicides
flailing in the Seine and serialize the complicity of
all mankind. Bingham scaled the heights of Machu Picchu
hoping it held a cradle of gold, but he bypassed Vilcabamba
and landed his dirigible on the Capitol steps, his Tiffany-
bought finery a gift of the conquered Incas. We are not alone,
and cannot back out of this now present delusion.
Satellites broken off like marble tombstones in the heavy
weather weave their languid beeps among the meteors.
What happens when cultures collide is that one becomes
the quarry, and colonial galls are harnessed in the children’s
DNA. They wait then in their cellar holes for words that
the Great Divide is brooked, that no more will the cardinal
hunt for its partner alone, seeking bits of feather hung like
tatters on the hidden barbs and hooks of universal directives.
The old guitar’s frets are scraped for music that might rouse
the inhabitants of a shrunken Milky Way; but can we see,
as St. Mark instructed, and not perceive? Hear, and not
understand, why the broken knuckles of the skinny bone tree
will not hold apples, why the buggies might still scare the
horses, though the radio’s song is perfectly tuned to
a frequency beyond confusion? Fifty years ago, Frank Drake
began to drag a net through the eerie silence, using Marconi’s
gyrations to explain the perfect circles of craters on the moon,
and the silhouettes of men who danced the hotfoot on the surface
of the sun. Who, like Lucretius, thought they spied cousins adept
at a rhumba all their own, whose critical conversations scorched
the lonely administration of a sympathetic tongue. Who looked
away for only a second, and looked back to find there were none.

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