The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

Oil, our pasts

Our battles and our contemporaries are doomed, in twenty years,
we will hardly be memories or pioneers.

These animals are instruments of oil, collapsing in the debris
of other lives which had given birth to them.

Hopeless this technology, despair is hopeless, death hopeless,
life hopeless, above all life is hopeless.

Hopeless life must be lived until it is no longer present at
life, hopeless death, in twenty years or among many pasts.

Hopeless the pasts unaccounted for, in ten years who among us
shall meet or come into their own among others already forgotten.

Our worlds are already gone, gone the battles of pasts, gone the
futures, our mouths full of worlds already gone, past lives ...

On this vista the curtain may be drawn. Neither poet nor seer
can look beyond. Nature, who is unconscious in her immorality,
entrancing in her beauty, savage in her cruelty, imperial in her
prodigiality, and appalling in her convulsions, is not only deaf,
but dumb. There is no answer to any appeal. The best we can do,
the best that has ever been done, is to recognize the implaca-
bility of the laws that rule the universe, and contemplate as
calmly as we can the nothingness from which we are come and into
which we shall all disappear. The one consolation that we hold,
though it is one which may be illusory too, consists in the
belief that when death comes, fear and hope are at an end. Then
wonder ceases; the insoluble no longer perplexes; space is lost;
the infinite is blank; the farce is done.*

Their agony, their dying breaths, their inconceivable twisting,
in thirty years, none will remember us among emptied halls, what
suns, what lights, what glories already gone among them

*Edgar Saltus, The Anatomy of Negation, 1889.

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