I Saw a Brand New Look

Truly now they are filling the sky with robotic eyes
with automaton dragonflies executing missions
named after homing pigeons wheeling twenty-five miles
in twenty-five minutes through artillery fire
and the long-eared mules they flew above
whose gift to warfare was steadiness pulling cannons
through snow. Probably it is useful to take occasionally
a bird's eye view, to see ourselves moving as if on sped up film
like ants through the colonies of their very long short lives.
We kept one self-contained in sand, sandwiched
between clear plastic walls. It arrived in the mail.
They were self-sufficient. I don't know if they were fed,
but surely if they required it by Mother they were
provided for just so like us all the years of that house.
They inhabited orderly the rooms they built;
they kept a graveyard chamber. One morning
we woke to one soldier left carrying inward all the dead
who surrounded him. I don't know how this relates
to what we call loyalty or love. I know that
of the approximately ten years worth of books
immediately available to me about the social insects
Formicidae of the family Hymenoptera
I would happily delve into six months at least.
I don't know when and where ideas of loyalty and love
would arise in this literature of adaptation.
We hold in one hand a set of questions. We hold
in one hand a handful gleaned from sad experience.
For a time we are bewildered children. For a time
we are bewildered children dedicated to denying
we are bewildered. For a time we grow comfortable
with the fact that in the face of time we are destined
always to be bewildered. By then, bewilderingly,
we have a child of our own. First, the size of a pea,
the size of a lima bean, the size of a lime.
Finally, the size of the idea of a baby hammering away
with makeshift drum sticks on anything he can find.
Without music, life would be a mistake, Nietzsche
supposedly said. Right now I can't remember
if we approve or disapprove of Nietzsche
or if the Israeli Philharmonic has a stance on the matter
or if my mother does. Right now I'm standing naked
in a room filled with drumming, groping with my mouth
for small bites of time, but the corn field outside
the window has been razed so to nothing I'm on view
but the occasionally passing mechanical eye.

by Lisa Olstein

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