9-2 poem

The Center for Literate Values ~ Defending the Western tradition of responsible individualism, disciplined freedom, tasteful creativity, common sense, and faith in a supreme moral being.



A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis

9.2 (Spring 2009)





Parallel Failures

Alan McGinnis  


Parallel universe or

warp-speed transit to

alternate galaxy or time-machine dial set

backward/forward or

alien touchdown taking captives…

n’importe oú hors du monde.


They killed the poets.

You would otherwise wield many

subjunctives and conditionals

prophecy auspice omen

contrary-to-fact clauses

in your daily search for daylight

“If may… then might…” “were it…

it would…”  How many light years

in a metaphor?  If I write

(should may might write—for why

write it now, post-poetry?)

“Blonde sun, chill spring tide—

March tide, birth-season’s watery march—

blue flaking over azalea shoals

where precocious children smell philosophy

as their mates chase and play,

I swam downward, backward,

trapped her under white dogwood coral, a

movement too gold-blonde for sun and

not flower enough for fish,

touched her as I never had when we were

children (I precocious, she

playing) and asked but could not say

(under water thick with years)

why, why, why, why… and she

would have seen once in her lifetime,

my lifetime… me.

Seen me,

had this been time of life,

Had life been death and this real time.”


If I say, were I to say, what

might just split such and such an

image superimposed on another

like two atoms under a particle beam

and fuse, shock wave settling, a

metaphor… would I not have traversed

more cosmo-plasma than you, Mr. Einstein?

For you cannot transport me back.

Were you to worm-hole me back to

childhood, I should be a child, and she

a blonde child, and my words

awaiting me a man to be found

too late.  So I should gain

Nothing thereby, though I shuttle from primal soup

to red shift bled out.  For I need

her then to see me now.  I need

her now to see my now is then,

was then, will be now.  I need

all over again, but without the loss

of a single blonde hair, and a vast gain

of words, words, words.  I need

flowering chances to speak.  I need

the courage to speak of one having lived.


But you killed the poets,

in a way.  You absorbed them

in neutron stars and split chronons and

other seductive  chalk-scribbled poetry.

I can travel twice the rate of light

and double half back if I can split & patch

the words just right, the things

which are not themselves till you make them

half not themselves.  Or I could

before your number-serenades seduced us.  Now

we look Out There again, like blunt Cro-Magnons

who look for men in the stars, who

expect to see a god walking, to

track him from the deep, fresh prints,

and to ask him for her

in so many words.

Should she flinch, they will lace

their sinewed fingers through her sun-spun hair.


I cannot reach my there from your here.

You do not understand, Mr. Einstime, Mr. Weisenstein.

You are too dull.  Your numbers

will not make words, and make only words

that will not pry open and compress

the universe.  Which is what I need.

What’s an equation in the subjunctive?

Where can I find myself young and wise?