How Do You Like the Underworld?

The completely to me magical screen sits in the middle of this black desk, the one I put together with such trouble, following the instructions, muttering its nonsensical Swedish name …

Three illustrated faces with "Wanted" read at the top
Illustration by Patrick Doyon

The completely to me magical screen
sits in the middle of this black desk,
the one I put together with such trouble,
following the instructions, muttering
its nonsensical Swedish name like a spell.
The screen is a dark window.
It can be made slowly light
by pushing a single button. It nobly rises,
a monument to a process begun
some years ago in a completely
dust-free facility thousands of miles
from Oakland, where the free sun
beats gently down on the heads
of my neighbours. I hear them
now for two sunlit moments pause
to converse as their dogs touch noses.
Meanwhile in the factory the workers
wear white dust-proof suits.
The boss watches from a catwalk above.
To be troubled only abstractly
by the thought in me
of those totally pure, white-clad
very real workers makes me
a kind of boss
though I wish I were not
is the ultimate white person problem.
To solve it I would like to ask
an ancient philosopher, preferably one in a cave.
But they are extinct. The humans
who are not robots at all
are right now robotically putting together
insanely precise atomic components
that make what we do go.
Thus I can watch and interact
with people I call followers or friends.
Or rather the words they have put together.
Down the screen they scroll.
It makes me so dizzy.
For a while I watched and thought,
how interesting. Then sad
thinking animals. Without a thought
to make them close
I closed my eyes and saw
a monk reading a book in the garden.
The book was about music others
left for us long ago and departed.
What can you learn
from a book about music?
Some say to settle for winter.
But they have read way too much Rilke.
He is very dead, and his problems
though cosmic did not include
the round earth becoming hotter.
I heard somewhere in Africa
they have found a glittering valley
an asteroid crashed into millions of years ago
and filled with useful silicate.
The frustules, i.e., shells of single-cell
diatoms, make a white earth
you can pack into tiny packets
to keep things dry on their journeys
to our stores. I bought some
at Grand Lake Ace Hardware to combat
the tiny, harmless ants that plagued me.
They plague me no more.
It’s time for the patriots to move forward.
Let’s go live now to that lake.
The smooth black totally ichthyic
divers plunge. To watch them
and wonder is like donning
the ceremonial oven mitts and trying
to grab a black coin in a darkened basement.
Beautiful pre-middle-aged people,
right now in the uncountable moments
interposed between us and lunch,
together we sleepwalk
in the best interest of claws.
We have broken the future of thunder.
Is it interesting or sad? There is no difference.
All children’s books are now about death.

This appeared in the March 2014 issue.

Matthew Zapruder
Matthew Zapruder won the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Prize in 2007.
Patrick Doyon
Patrick Doyon received an Oscar nod in 2012 for Dimanche/Sunday, an animated short.

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