Archive for January, 2008


The end is near the beginning

I usually start my day by contemplating the various catastrophes–global warming, peak oil, systemic financial collapse–that are galloping toward us, and wishing I’d bought that 20 acres in the mountains while I had the chance. Everyone should have a few acres of their own, a place to plant a few potatoes and erect a defensible perimeter.

I find it curiously stimulating and consoling to think that Western Civ might be scraped down to the bare dirt and need to be rebuilt from scratch. I’m a child of the sixties, after all, still Visualizing Industrial Collapse. Peak Oil is the Rapture of the crypto-agrarian left (a political tendency made up of myself and my friend Bob Schildgen [aka “Mr. Green.”]). I like feeling all millennial and apocalyptic.

But after terrorizing myself for an hour or two by reading all the bad news on the blogs, I need to restore some mental tone before sitting down to write. I do this by reading poetry, another bad habit of mine.

This morning I found the perfect poem for this time of impending disaster and TEOTWAWKI (The End of the World As We Know It). It’s “The Horses” by Scottish poet Edwin Muir:

The Horses

Barely a twelvemonth after
The seven days’ war that put the world in sleep,
Late in the evening the strange horses came.
By then we had made our covenant with silence,
But in the first few days it was so still
We listened to our breathing and were afraid.
On the second day
The radios failed; we turned the knobs; no answer.
On the third day a warship passed us, heading north,
Dead bodies piled on the deck. On the sixth day
A plane plunged over us, into the sea. Thereafter
Nothing. The radios dumb;
And still they stand in corners of our kitchens,
And stand, perhaps, turned on, in a million rooms,
All over the world. But now if they should speak,
If on a sudden they should speak again,
If on the stroke of noon a voice should speak,
We would not listen, we would not let it bring
That old bad world that swallowed its children quick
At one great gulp. We would not have it again.
Sometimes we think of the nations lying asleep,
Curled blindly in impenetrable sorrow,
And then the thought confounds us with its strangeness.

The tractors lie about our fields; at evening
They look like dank sea-monsters couched and waiting.
We leave them where they are and let them rust:
“They’ll moulder away and be like other loam.”
We make our oxen drag our rusty ploughs,
Long laid aside. We have gone back
Far past our father’s land.
And then, that evening
Late in the summer the strange horses came.
We heard a distant tapping on the road,
A deepening drumming: it stopped, went on again
And at the corner, changed to hollow thunder,
We saw the heads
Like a wild wave charging and were afraid.
We had sold our horses in our fathers’ time
To buy new tractors. Now they were strange to us.
As fabulous steeds set on an ancient shield;
Or illustrations in a book of knights.
We did not dare go near them. Yet they waited.
Stubborn and shy, as if they had been sent
By an old command to find our whereabouts
And that long-lost archaic companionship.
In the first moment we had never a thought
That they were creatures to be owned and used.
Among them were some half-a-dozen colts
Dropped in some wilderness of the broken world,
Yet new as if they had come from their own Eden.
Since then they have pulled our ploughs and borne our loads,
But that free servitude still can pierce our hearts.
Our life is changed; their coming our beginning.


Better late

New Year’s Resolution: I will stop procrastinating so goddamn much.

Also: blog more.

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