Monday, January 13, 2020

"Survivor" (A Poem, New and Revised)

I have reworked and revised large sections of this poem, and it's enough to warrant presenting it here once again. It's not likely that many people read it previously (some two years ago, when it was first posted) — that doesn't bother me; in fact I hope not many people read it, because it was messy.

That doesn't mean it's "neat" now (or ever will be). In any case, I reserve the right to revise it further. This is my "writing workshop" (indeed, my creative workshop for a variety of media). Some of my posts are more polished than others.

After nine years, however, I have also begun to realize that a blog is a distinctive kind of "thing," a literary and multimedia artifact (or collection of artifacts) with an identity of its own, even though I'm not sure what that identity is.

I'm content for now to consider it a work-in-progress, and keep shaping it as I go.

Here, then, is the new and revised version of Survivor. I have come to realize that this poem, written in the first person, actually does come out of my own experience. In a sense, this poem is about me, but it's also about what is for so many people the intensity and trauma of life in these strange times. We are all the ones who are "running."

As for the ones who drive the runners on, I don't know who "They" are ... [read the poem, and you'll know what I'm talking about😉].


I remember running;
years of slippery running on glassy ground
under an electric forest,
with whispering wirey trees
tangled together into angry knots.
And the birds did not sing,
or breathe,
but lay everywhere still,
like colored shadows in the long twilight.

Always every day the same;
always running, running, running away,
down endless twisting tunnels
of wind and echoes,
pursuing perpetual survival.

They pushed and prodded the crowd,
told us to keep moving:
"Run, scream, scream to hear the sound,
to feel the life inside you and hold hard on it.
Run fast, never stop,
or you will burn, melt, evaporate..."

I remember running
with a huge roaring crowd,
all of us with electric shoes
that jumped up and down,
each footfall shaking the floor,
a great thumping sound,
flooding the room, flooding our heads;
sound upon sound, gigantic, total,
always the same, the unceasing clamor,
clatter, crashing rush
of running to save our lives.

Their iron whips slashed into our flesh
as they ordered us to keep moving:
"Run, scream,
shout the song with synthetic throats.
Shout with the dance of the electric feet;
shout and run and stay with the beat.
Run to survive,
to power this deathless day."

One day I remember running
very early in the morning,
and the blue rain
was falling all over my face,
splashing, stinging,
vanishing into vapor,
into the florescent cyan mist
that was light to my withered eyes.
One day out of all those pallid years,
I was running
and, suddenly, I fell to the ground.

I came crashing down into a quivering heap
of skin, bone, lurching tendons
struggling, shot with pain,
pushing into paralysis.
Then stillness came upon me,
a stillness of wonderful exhaustion,
my eyes burning, staring at the sky.

No one came to help me, to carry me,
to pity me, to mourn the loss of me.
They drove the crowd forward
into a powerful terrified stampede:
"Run, run, never stop
for in stillness you will disappear
into the bottomless chasm of night.
Leave the broken ones to eat dust.
We are running into the fiery day,
the strong, ruthless day,
the day of war.
We are running with those who survive."

I was left behind,
left to be eaten by the dark.
My wounds were of no interest to Them
or Their proud plans,
and the crowd kept running,
running away from me.

I watched the crowd vanish into the horizon,
into a crack of sudden blazing light,
light glowing over the edges of everything,
casting strange shadows on the ground.
It was the herald of dreams awakening,
the unexpected ending and beginning,
the final day
of this giant city of evanescent steel and clay,
the first day dawning,
a new day.

In the stillness of that moment,
I felt the breath of Time.
I heard her whisper to me:
the time is now...”

The time is now,
in the frail moments of days and years,
shining slowly,
growing patiently,
whispering softly,
with the steady strength of a rising wind,
waking sleepers
from dreams of desperate running
under the cold dying stars.

Here in today’s time,
this strange “today” where I still live -
scarred, hungry, tenaciously breathing -
people call me a "survivor."
But in this gifted interval which I cannot hold,
I tremble and hope and speak
of what I have seen and heard.