This was the sad generation
that the others overlooked.
This generation was wise;
it self-published a book
for every dollar of its debt.
This generation worked,
and then work became optional.
Oh, sure, some people still lurked
around offices, but always, invariably,
they had private means.
This generation stayed healthy
thanks to all the vaccines,
but then disease caught on,
along with faith and celebrity.
They were shut out of the parliaments
and they ate their own austerity
(raw, to get the vitamins).
They were kettled by back-turning goons.
They weren’t even good enough
to fire up to the moon.
Every wish and velleity
was diminished or ignored.
In the beginning was ‘No’,
and in the end was the word.
The thanatotropic plant
turns itself towards death
while an evaporating rain
displays itself in the west.



In modern, safe societies, bureaucracy fills the role
that used to be filled by war. Instead of glaring across their borders the whole
mass of massed peoples cringes at what surrounds it, like the nose of a star-nosed mole.

If soldiers no longer parade on the squares with leathery thwacks,
wearing cassowary plumes and zouave trousers with legs like coffee sacks,
playing at war (‘the gory nurse that trains societies to cohesiveness,’ wrote William James a while back,

before war meant what twentieth-century war meant)
it doesn’t mean we have no common enemy. From seafloor vents
to revolving restaurants on top of skyscrapers a force directs the management

of our lives. But while manipulation has been supervening
violence all these years the rending of garments and lamentable keening
of powerless grief have only changed in magnitude and frequency and not in meaning.

In other words, it’s not ‘now, do what we say
and no-one gets hurt,’ it’s ‘do what we say and you won’t get hurt, and anyway
you’re far too busy today to worry about your fellow creatures’ exponential decay.’

Erik Kennedy's poems and reviews have appeared in places like The Morning StarOxford Poetry, and Poems in Which in the UK, LadowichThe Los Angeles Review of Books, and Ohio Edit in the US, and Landfall and Sport in New Zealand. He is the poetry editor for Queen Mob's Teahouse. He lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.

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