“History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.”
—Ulysses

The sky, fragile like old parchment
scriven and torn past repair,

floats over us. Cities, villages, vistas
of the past—faded, irradiated—

the names of wars, statues of kings,
symphonic themes forgotten.

Now only the clouds seem
familiar, like wedding guests

just arrived from a funeral, their dark coats
ironed and shiny, their white shirts

soiled with tears. Yesterday
there was this figment in the mirror.

There were these ghosts in the machine.
Today is flat, stale, and profitable.

While snow flurries over their faces,
people queue up for part-time jobs,

buy lottery tickets, kneel
outside the Stock Exchange, and dream

of some large clear place
devoid of pain. After history,

with its sieges, plagues, and massacres,
chieftains, serfs, conquistadors, and slaves,

guillotines, oubliettes, and racks,
time will float aimlessly, without referents.

The sky will be seamless again.

After history we will all drive home alone
through present darkness and impending rain

and count the seconds that cluster, dying,
on the windshield, like flies.

 

Carol Vanderveer Hamilton is the author of Blindsight. Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review, North American Review, Salmagundi, Poetry Miscellany, The Cimarron Review, and Social Anarchism.

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