In Evening Air
A dark theme keeps me here,
Though summer blazes in the vireo's eye.
Who would be half possessed
By his own nakedness?
Waking's my care --
I'll make a broken music, or I'll die.
Ye littles, lie more close!
Make me, O Lord, a last, a simple thing
Time cannot overwhelm.
Once I transcended time :
A bud broke to a rose,
And I rose from a last diminishing.
I look down the far light
And I behold the dark side of a tree
Far down a billowing plain,
And when I look again,
It's lost upon the night --
Night I embrace, a dear proximity.
I stand by a low fire
Counting the wisps of flame, and I watch how
Light shifts upon the wall.
I bid stillness be still.
I see, in evening air,
How slowly dark comes down on what we do.
There I listened to the works of Sean McNally and Todd Colby. Either of these two men may, in fact, be robots -- vicious cyborgs sent from a dystopian future to destroy humanity before it can flower into an enlightened race. Currently, however, they write and read stories and poems. True, they may be writing and reading them only in the hopes that we will be thereby lulled into a false sense of security, the better to be decimated by our future robot overlords, but considering that I almost fell asleep in a snowdrift, I'm not sure how invested in humanity's future I am, anyway.
Sean McNally led off. He disarmed me by wearing a completely normal suit with a loud tie, instead of a completely wild sportcoat with no tie. He read us the lost eighteen and a half minutes from the Nixon tapes. A few choice fragments: "groovy woman pie" "follow the cadaver to the Fun Fair!" "Checkers is wearing a Nixon suit" "What kind of bear is the Mayor?"
Questions arose: Is Nixon the President? Is he a friend to woodland animals? Is the standard American greeting of "Hello, my name is . . ." about to be supplanted (or has it already been?) by "Look. I don't want any trouble"? Is Nixon the hapless fellow at the Fun Fair, covered in the remains of a vomit pinata? Is his fate to be determined by letter? Or by something else entirely?
We could not be sure, we few snow-braving listeners at Pete's Candy Store. The magisterial ghost of Tricky Dick hung listlessly in the air, making desultory "V is for Victory" hand symbols. Was this the sign of the oncoming robot apocalypse? The haunted assembly did not wait to find out, instead darting furtively to the bar for more drinks.
When we returned, like woodland animals who, previously having been spooked off by a bear or wolf, yet come back for more, they found not Nixon, but . . . a robot! Todd J. Robot! We listened to his tales of robot supremacy, "hot off the robot," as he put it. "Weehauken, that's where they dispose of old robots, right?" He spoke of the anger of old women, and how they mercilessly torment robots. He spoke of the colors of losing and winning, and the robotic discovery thereof. He broke off in his digital misery, unable to continue. He let out a few solitary beeps, a binary wail against the pity of the cosmos. And then he stopped talking about robots entirely.
Then other things were read by Robot Todd, or Person Todd, as he now nefariously tried to be. Only dissection could reveal the truth, and I didn't have the tools. And so I listened to work from his latest book, "Tremble and Shine," which some have called a subtle manual for robot domination, and which Jordan Davis (who advertises his robot allegience brazenly), quoting Andre Breton, an early model robot, says achieves, at times, a convulsive beauty. Todd J. Possibly-A-Robot read about the joy of living beneath a giant flower, about the impending threat to his ability to rock, and about the path of death, aka the boss lady who can't count in Spanish. As I listened, I considered the odds. Was this a human before me? Or had a robot learned human emotion? Or merely its deceptive simulacrum? Should I stop the Philip-K-Dickery, and just listen?
Alas, my ruminations were cut short by the reading's conclusion, and the crowd's subsequent dispersement into the bar for drinks. I bundled myself into my winter garb, took a look at the horizontal advancement of the blowing snow, said my goodbyes, and headed out. I ended my evening with the lovely (and rare for New York) experience of being the first person to deface a large, smooth patch of snow with footprints, as I walked across the park. You sometimes forget that snow is pretty, living here. But you never, ever forget about the robots.
I bought a book about pirates. Arrgh! My cultural landscape is littered with stock characters, tropes, like so:
Zombies. Detectives. Vampires. Pirates. Robots. Mobsters. Dinosaurs. Superheroes. Talking Animals. Teenage Romantics. Revolutionaries. Colonists. Aliens. Witches. Evil Italian Aristocrats. Pioneers. Those Stranded on Islands. Maniacs.
Update: I forgot Cowboys! And Pith-Helmeted Explorers!