Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Complete Failure Of Everything

At the carnival sideshow
the veteran sword swallower has bloodied his throat.
The snake charmer has been attacked,
his cobras, rattlers, boas
have stung, bitten, and squeezed him to death.
In the tunnel of love the teenage couple
keep their hands at their sides and
look straight ahead,
waiting anxiously for the ride to end.
Out on the rollercoaster people are yawning
while on the merry-go-round children
are screaming in terror.
In the suburbs a man has decided
not to build a deck on the back
of his new house.
His neighbors are at the mall
attending the grand opening
of a multiplex porno theater.
Back in town the crack dealers
and junkie hookers
are giving it away.
The Jehovah’s witnesses are wandering around
drunk, cigarettes dangling from their mouths
as they mumble, “Jesus, I just don’t know.”
In the universities the professors
have taken over the libraries.
They’re tearing up the pages
of every book on every shelf
on every subject.
In the nightclub the stripper
with the 72-inch bust is keeping her top on
while the flat-chested women
rip open their blouses
and shout, “Va Va Voom,”
to the delight
of the already frenzied crowd.
The billionaire is sitting on a park bench
perusing the want ads
while the panhandler orders dinner
at a fancy French restaurant
for fifty of his closest friends.
Over in the third world
the mercenary is helping to build a hospital
while the Christian missionaries
have just raped and pillaged
in a small town of peasants.

There is snow in the desert
and flowers in the arctic,
wild music in the asylums
and silence in the dance halls,
charity in the casinos
and greed at the Salvation Army,
orgies in the convents
and prayer in the whorehouses.

And what we are witnessing
is the complete failure of everything.
The failure of the rich and the poor,
the failure of the ecstatic and the tortured,
the failure of the loud and the peaceful,
the failure of love and hate,
the beautiful and the ugly,
the good and the bad,
the daring and the timid.

It’s the failure of the holy to stay holy
and the sinners to keep sinning,
the failure of the rich to stay rich
and the poor to stay poor,
the failure of those who love
and those who hate,
everything failing,
inevitably falling into its opposite,
into its enemy, into its nightmare,
into the end
where the big bang,
having reached its limit,
reverses itself,
with everything you know
falling apart,
here, in the carnival
where the last great act
is to take something,
and through a swift sleight of hand
turn it into nothing
as the bright lights dim
and the merry-go-round
grinds slowly
to a complete
and silent

- Jose Padua
First published, in the St. Mark's Poetry Project Newsletter, in 1992.

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