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John Bowers


Published onApr 19, 2019
John Bowers


for Noam Chomsky

Speech is richness, and in time

comes to mean more than the mere words signify, becoming a kind

of memory: a time within time.

I am thinking now of certain abstract evenings and of certain mornings,

no longer very clear, when the mind lay motionless, almost stunned,

in silence, surrounded by shadows

of minutes and hours, lay very still, utterly outside the passage of time,

and lightly, slowly and quickly, very surely, unlocked a particular

door that led the way into a land that was neither very strange, nor

even very different from the one left behind, but which sparkled

and gleamed like the dew, and shimmered like the air of the morning,

leapt and danced like an invisible flame, and was calm, was perfect.

Whump. A sound like a bomb. I looked up and saw flocks of black

birds, warplanes, wheeling across the darkened sky. Whump.

Another one, closer, and ahead of me I saw soldiers creeping on their

bellies through the jungle, shouting harsh commands, cursing. Now

shots, sounds of machine guns, spitting obscenely. I cried out, I ran

into the middle of an open field, shouting: “Stop! Stop!

You are wrong! This is not the place you think it is.

Put down your guns! Birds, fly away!” I shook my fists

at the sky, shook my head at the soldiers, pleading,

protesting. The noise grew louder.

Earth shattered with explosions,

trees toppled, fire filled the air, and bullets whined unceasingly.

Screams arched into the sky, clawing at nothing, disappeared. Blood

filled my eyes, as I watched bodies break and burst, guts spill

out, and faces suddenly go vacant.

A little child ran by, burning, its face a design of terror,

uncomprehending. And then I too died. Bullets hit me. I staggered

and fell, and lay bleeding quietly

on the ground. The uproar faded, my vision grew dim. Soon, there was nothing except pain and blackness.

But then, of course, the door opened, the door I had almost

forgotten, opened: I was not dead and had not died. Only others,

many others, have died and suffered, still suffer, still are dying,

while I, we, I, wait in comfort, afraid to die, ashamed to live,

angry and discontented, uncertain

and ugly, waiting, brooding, waiting.

Waiting for the words to become memory, and the memory

an abstraction: a time within time, if time exists, and if not,

there is only memory.

and that is merely death.

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