Have you ever looked at people
and told yourself that
one day you are going to
write about them?
about how her lips pursed as she
uttered every syllable like a
prayer before a God
that is not there;
about how the sound of her strange
pronunciation floated like mist
over the fading of consciousness;
about the silver tongue you wish
you could erase
if only to break the barrier
that is language.
Have you ever been to some place
and felt all the adjectives
retreat, run back home
until there are no more
words to describe the blinding
glare of flourescence, the secrets
of these white-washed walls, the silence
that is deafening.
And behind you is a window to a spectacle:
men in suits—an elevator going up and down
like the steady motions of a sentient machine
a ticking wrist watch, the weight of
hurried time; cars lined up in parking lots,
feet lined up in banks, offices,
taxi bays like souls awaiting
the Great Judgment.
Have you ever felt something
and knew right then and there that
you have felt it before?
Like Déjà vu—but for the heart
a strange familiar feeling of
both comfort and loss, as when
you look up to the skies and see
the sunlight peeking through
the leaves of trees, and wonder
what kind of providence it must be to
find yourself breathing in the present,
what kind of a mistake it was to leave
yourself in the past.
And imagine if all these people are throbbing
after the same lost thing, these people
whose souls are slammed by the same
disorientation from the world of humans.
How do normal people carry on
in life with smiles plastered
on their faces, and how do they
glide through the mechanical
rhythm of the everyday like the proverbial
cogs of the machine that
She said, “Tell me about yourself.”
I imagined the particles in space
ever since the beginning of the Big Bang
and I remembered how
every inch of us is
Have you ever been asked by somebody
and found no real answer but space?
All that I ever am
is a cosmic mess of bones
and skins and memories.
“Sometimes I feel so—I don’t know—lonely. The kind of helpless feeling when everything you’re used to has been ripped away. Like there’s no more gravity, and I’m left to drift in outer space with no idea where I’m headed.”
“Like a lost Sputnik?”
“I guess so.”
I turned faceup on the slab of stone, gazed at the sky, and thought about all the man-made satellites spinning around the earth. The horizon was still etched in a faint glow, and stars began to blink on in the deep, wine-colored sky. I gazed among them for the light of a satellite, but it was still too bright out to spot one with the naked eye. The sprinkling of stars looked nailed to the spot, unmoving. I closed by eyes and listened carefully for the descendants of Sputnik, even now circling the earth, gravity their only tie to the planet. Lonely metal souls in the unimpeded darkness of space, they meet, pass each other and part, never to meet again. No words passing between them. No promises to keep.