William S. Burroughs once wrote, “Panic is the sudden realization that everything around you is alive.” This poem was an attempt to delve into the staggering implications of that notion: if everything around you is indeed alive, it becomes overwhelming to imagine all the care that will require. This childhood memory in a parking lot was just that realization, such an intense panic, because I knew in that moment that sustaining and caring for all the world around me was an impossibility, and that without some kind of magical power, it would break me. Though the poem traffics in magic (predicting the future, summoning ghosts) it’s really up to the reader whether that has any veracity. In a sense, it doesn’t matter; even in the face of certain failure, there is a nobility in the trying.
I’ll tell you, Dear Reader: I can look into a crystal ball
And see the future: airy, ethereal, crackling
In refracted light. The boys on the yellow bus
Ride through the slush and dark of winter,
Leaning foreheads against freezing panes
Of glass, catching glimpses of snowed fields
And unlit country roads. We were all
Coming back from some field trip I can’t recall,
And stopped at McDonald’s where some kids
With money bought fries, and plastic cups of ice cream,
And some kids without got nothing.
I remember: being scared in the darkening parking lot.
As if I had some premonition how all of us might end.
How this boy would grow up to run his wife and children
Off the road into the snow, flip their SUV with his truck,
Catch a long bid, head to the Correctional to get locked up.
How this boy would grow up just to get lit, run his racist mouth
To Mohawks on the Res, get stomped into the curb outside the bar.
And You (why You?)! My dearest friend, who will not make it past
Nineteen to see your end, will nod out on some random cot,
Crystal-blue-eyes closing like a faceless mirror. I will never
Find another friend I can recall like I recall you now.
Dear Reader, dismiss me here: some fake gypsy pulling
Parlor tricks for coins. Or entertain yourself:
Believe what we believed, sitting on that bus,
Our nascent brains dreaming of futures that seemed
Somehow possible, in the dark, outside-the-glass cold air.
We all pretended, conned: all the boys got back on the bus,
We didn’t leave any on the lot (was this my fear)? The lot, with its iced
Blacktop, not a window to the future, just the clear strip of water
Over something very cold, and hard, and dark, already there.