A new era begins now
With the burning of the dirigible R101 as it crashes to earth
Wrapped in black swirls of smoke
And in flames that can be seen from across the canal.
I offer nothing special, I don't develop theories
I'm only a camera swinging over the desert
Just a flying carpet
A recorder of scattered facts and dates
A machine producing a certain number of buttons per minute.
First I point out
the bodies of Andrée
And his unfortunate companions
Who waited hidden half a century under the northern snow
To be discovered one day in the year nineteen hundred and thirty
The year in which I place myself and am in a way placed.
I point to the precise spot where they were overcome by the storm
Here is the sled that led them to the arms of death
The compartment full of scientific documents
and observational instruments
Full of food and countless photographic plates.
Now I soar to the
top of one of the Himalayas' highest peaks
The Kanchenjunga, and skeptically watch the international team
Setting out to scale her, to decipher her mysteries.
I see how the wind throws them back time and again
To where they started
Until desperation and madness take their minds.
I see some of them slip and fall into the chasm
And others fight among themselves for a few cans of food.
But not everything
I see comes down to an expeditionary force:
I'm a traveling museum
An encyclopedia forcing a path through the waves.
I record each and every human act.
Only let something happen anywhere on the globe
And a part of me heads toward it.
That's my job.
I give the same attention to a crime as to an act of mercy
An idyllic landscape and the convulsive flashes of an electrical storm
Make me shudder in the same way.
I don't understate nor exalt anything.
I simply tell what I see.
I see Mahatma Gandhi
Public demonstrations against the Salt Law
I see the Pope and his Cardinals in a congestion of anger
Out of their minds as if possessed by the devil
Condemning the religious persecutions in Soviet Russia
And I can see Prince Carol returning by plane to Bucharest.
Thousands of Croatian and Slovenian terrorists are executed en masse behind
I let it happen, I let it pass
I let the murders go on quietly
I let General Carmona stick like a barnacle to the throne of Portugal.
This was and this
is what happened in the year nineteen hundred and thirty
This is how the Kulaks were exterminated in Siberia
And how General Chiang crossed the Yellow River and took Peking
By this means and no other are the astrologers' predictions fulfilled
To the rhythm of my poor widowed mother's sewing machine
To the rhythm of the rain, the rhythm of my own naked feet
And of my brothers scratching themselves and talking in their sleep.
by Miller Williams
Antipoems: New and Selected (edited by David Unger), New York,
New Directions, 1985.