As my Facebook feed fills up with UCLA friends saying they’re ok during the active shooter lock-down, I put down the palette knife and stroll to a late dinner in the Northern European summer sunshine. Checking my phone for news after ordering, I look at bloody pictures from Iraq that CNN has paired with a headline about the U.S. State Department Tuesday issuing a travel warning for the entire European continent despite no new, specific intelligence. A line of American tourists bikes past the café—unmistakably fat, helmet-clad, handle bar-gripping on rented bikes.
I yawn and read another headline, this one on American death rates rising for the first time in decades—from increased drug overdoses, suicides, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease. Dinner is tasty and I’m happy, I think to myself; but I should bike more. I come home and illustrate this poem listening to Ani DiFranco’s “Little Plastic Castle” (“on a day which is every day/ i picked up a magazine/ which is every magazine. read a story, and then forgot it right away/ they say goldfish have no memory/ i guess their lives are much like mine/ and the little plastic castle/ is a surprise every time”)…
… Or attempt to, I think to myself sardonically after failing to optimally execute my sketch of a McDonald’s M qua flames behind a bicycle with Mutually Assured Destruction lit bomb-wheels on a rainbow climate change graph symbolizing the attention game of transgender bathroom bullshit politics. Insert your favorite source here on actual base rates of global violent criminal victimization, illness, and/or death.
“The Road to Death”
The road to death is paved with living,
so say the men who sell us bombs.
Disarming would not be forgiving;
waging peace, the greatest of wrongs.
Our destruction is mutually assured.
That’s why we must make war on war,
fight fire with fire and ice with ice.
They say the world will end—if we play nice.
Meanwhile, temperatures rise more and more.
Ecosystems crumble, unsecured.
It seems a slower-crashing train is different
from the Big Bang after all.
Either that, or theories are indifferent
dressing on the meaty, spinning ball.
Or, to nightmares of apocalypse we are inured.
Perhaps there is still another road,
a road to life not paved with death,
where the race to arms and oil is slowed.
Perhaps not. It might be for the best.
We’ve not left many roads for the rest.
With deference to Carol Cohn, “Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals.”