The History of the Last Five Seconds

by Bill Bowler


He sat in the dark with his thoughts:

What if The Absolute showed up half-empty
like a beer bottle or bank account?

What if it showed up drunk
with a stupid look on its face?

What if it got sick and threw up on you?
What if it splattered all over the place?

What if it never showed and stood you up?

What if we rushed forward without looking back?
What if, in innocence, he simplified the plot impetus
or altered its sequence?

* * *

He could stoically push on, push on
to flush, plush straights, heretofore discombobulated
but he hesitated, confused.

Things were more or less clear,
up to a certain point,
down to a certain depth,
to the solid floor
so easily the ceiling from the other side,
and each utterance was a blow to the chisel
in a crack in that floor or ceiling.

His mind wandered back, drifted,
hung on words, strange versions of the incomplete.

To run, he felt, was useless,
though the urge to flee
had preserved many species.

He sat in the dark and gazed out
at the falling snow, the ill-lit street,
boarded storefronts, and at the corner,
Flatbush streaming by to the bridge.

He heard the clock tick on the mantle.
She murmured in her sleep.
Her soft sigh filled the quiet apartment
messy with their cluttered lives.

Like hungry buzzards, notion after notion
circled near his troubled mind.
Caught in the inconspicuous glare of whims,
a wall of grim bricks blocked his path.
The snow flakes sent wild messages
to his cells, to his self. He picked up his pen

and probed for the solution.

To his surprise,
the whole thing had blown over.
Everybody talked about it for one night
and then forgot. But how could he?
What was it that flickered
just out of sight of his averted gaze?

Was he exaggerating?
Did screaming and slamming doors
loom on the horizon
as the heavyweights duke it out for domination?

Neither shoved, neither budged an inch,
both were right, both were wrong,
both were hurt, misunderstood,
both lashed out, feeding the fire.
Low voices, trembling, threatening,
the uneasy calm before...
His stomach churned again.
Here it comes! It’s going to be bloody!

Little Big Horn!
Mindboggling bitter battle of the unbending,
preaching pronouncements to the resentful.
Nose to nose screeching with hit and run guerilla attacks
on the Big Guns of the obviously miserable,
buffeted about by the fierce winds
of unresolved inner conflicts
recreated from childhood.

His mind threw down its weapons
and ran for cover,
stumbling over itself
like an escaped convict
with dogs in pursuit,
through a lapse in his defenses,
through a chink in his armor,
like a missile through his nuclear shield.

* * *

His thoughts turned towards
the distillation of crystal purity,
precipitation of the quintessence,
the sine qua non, the pure blue metaphor,
the “standing for” not the signified...

He jotted it all down,
taking careful notes along the way,
composing the grand epic in progress,
an imagined lyric lurking nearby, nagging,
something overheard on the telephone
or sped by on remote control
like a commercial between two programs.

If just one of these were lost!
Just one of these!

Things are like other things,
this like that... blah blah blah.

Everything’s gonna be different
after _____ (fill in the blank).


Copyright © 2014 by Bill Bowler

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