get there if you can and see the land: 2

The Pursuit of Loneliness

Look at the glazed eyes of the shoppers as they move down the aisles. Their dream state is disrupted only by a nagging sense of irritation that the gulf between what they were promised and what they really have continues to widen every day.

America is locked in this dream, shuddering with the night sweats, moaning in its sleep, but it doesn’t wake.

In the Great Suburb

It is not real. It is a comfort to know that none of it has any reality whatever. The people have, though. As I watch them passing dreamily down the shining aisles of vast supermarkets and pharmacies, they are naked, and oh, so fragile.

The Mowers

The low hum of lawn mowers is sine qua non in the suburbs, like the mullahs’ daily calls to the faithful from the spires of Marrakesh or Istanbul. It brings on the same meditative state in the hearer, the primal comfort of a known and ordered universe.

Within and without, all hell is breaking loose; pathologies gnaw at alienated human hearts like zombies from a hundred movies. The paradigm shudders, rocks— but does not fall. The mowers in their hundreds of thousands drone on, in the golden afternoons, sturdily shoring up the expensive boundaries of Adam’s dominion, maintaining the Pax Romana, holding back the twilight of empire from the ragged American shore.

The End of the Road (Trip)

In Ohio, setting out, the great highway a river of glinting steel, Bruce Springsteen sang “Glory Days” on the radio, and you could feel the yearning sadness powering the flow of traffic. There was a reason for the westward draw, the desperate search; there buried under junk and ruin was the lost promise, the chance to soar and shine, and to love. The America that was dead before it was born, murdered in the womb of conquest, but whose possibility still haunted the dream-life of drunks and whores and suburban office workers alike. All felt the human sadness of the losing struggle to thrive, not just survive, not just buy and die.

But after seven states of bloody roadkill: a delicately lovely red fox in Indiana, a grim coyote in Utah, a truckload of twisted and crumpled deer, and the guts of uncounted small creatures: rabbits, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, raccoons, opossums, birds, cats, dogs, moles, beavers—plastered to the asphalt, after two thousand miracle-less miles of strip malls and cold-lit motels that hummed and buzzed at the center of their silent, oil-stained parking lots, we made it to the West Coast and watched as the murderous, gleaming traffic raced in circles up and down the shore. Still fleeing, still searching, but nothing left to look or hope for now, just that frenzy of frustration at having arrived.

And then the trip was over, with no melancholy or forlorn hope to feel, only exhaustion, here at the end of America.

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One thought on “get there if you can and see the land: 2

  1. I love it that you read and blind-quote early Auden, a poet who has meant more to me than almost any other.

    Faces along the bar
    Cling to their average day:
    The lights must never go out,
    The music must always play,
    All the conventions conspire
    To make this fort assume
    The furniture of home;
    Lest we should see where we are,
    Lost in a haunted wood,
    Children afraid of the night
    Who have never been happy or good.

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