“The Machine Stops”
By Angela Consolo Mankiewicz
It may be our only hope:
shoot down the satellites, dynamite
the grids, melt the cell towers ….
Let whole populations die out
leaving just enough to burn
or bury the dead and dot
large isolate masses of land;
and light, let there be no light
other than the sun to read by
and read only what is at hand
and what is at hand is only Euripides,
Dante, maybe Dickinson,
Shakespeare, something Zen.
And something else — no priestesses, no priests;
maybe a Keeper to distribute refinements
to inhale, drink, bite into and swallow
to keep us from agitating over more /
better / different / other / mine
something to help us believe life is / can be /
will be good, something to help ease
a beloved’s death, something to ease our own
something to dissolve the depression of being
however temporary the sensation.
We are savage creatures, like most,
and as improbable, in need of taming —
quickly — before the 2am last-call is proclaimed
by a rattle in the species’ throat.
We did it once, brutes to less-brutes,
less brutes to gentlemen and women
despite remaining “all the same
under this fancy linen”
We can do it again: re-generate generosity,
charity, mercy, kindness the Greeks and Dante,
Shakespeare and Zen, maybe we can
confound the gods and do better this time
even build a better machine that self-destructs
at just the right time.
Angela Consolo Mankiewicz is the author of four chapbooks, the newest being An Eye, from Pecan Grove Press and As If, from Little Red Books-Lummox. She has also been the Contributing Editor and Regional Editor, respectively, for the small press (now defunct) journals Mushroom Dreams and New Press Quarterly. The title of this poem refers to a 1928 short story by E.M. Forster.