From Television

By | 1 May 2020

after A. R. Ammons


when dystopia arrives, all the world is sick:
television relishes the sickness, the teens, who

plummet back to an earth they expect to be
irradiated—and it is: yes, earth has bloomed

new terrors, survivors who have no sympathy
for anyone who’s known real order, safety, and

other survivors, a shadow race who’ll feed on
persistence as if it were a birthright, remnant

of the shadow nation, shadow government in
operation at Mount Weather: in this end of

the world it’s nukes, it’s tech, while in another
its aliens, or politics, or religion, or even the

dream of utopia that starts it: whatever it is
that sets it in motion, it is just a symptom, and

the illness it reveals is us: that is surely television’s
point, plaint, itself a kind of dystopia, because

the cameras (except for in that meerkat show,
which anyway has such people-ish narration) are

pointed so much at us: sometimes I search for
live streams, news of now: there’s one of a light

in a firehouse in California: the stream is just
a light, switched on, still working: it matters

to the watchers because the light is now
the longest running light we have and its

persistence offers hope: of course, I write this
and the news carries daily pictures of California

on fire, and then our fire season comes, the heat,
the particles spreading, every state of the nation

aflame: I once knew a girl who’d been in love
with a fire jumper: it didn’t last: I don’t know

how long the light’s live stream has already
lasted, but its site looks like Web 1.0, and bears

the invitation depending on the availability of
you can visit the bulb: I like to think

if The 100 had landed on the other coast, perhaps
they’d find the light still running, the bulb defying

the later stage of capitalism, planned obsolescence:
when the teens landed and quickly found they

didn’t die, of course the post-apocalypse
became a blowout—before it became all threat,

all human nature: but sexing each other it all
came down to pleasure for a moment, and

when their parents followed, there was always
some autonomy they wanted back, even as they

longed to cede responsibility: I like the live
streams, too, of nesting birds—there’s so many

to watch, so many species, geographies, so
many ways to anticipate future destruction,

extinction, a frisson that gives that moment
of logging on some fraught appeal: not just

immediacy, but witness: when I visit
the California Condor cam at Big Sur I know

it’s likely to be still, occasional insects flitting
past, the same cicada sound I could hear here

if I just walked outside tonight, but streaming it
is more poignant, anyway that emptiness has

some seed in it, a conviction that at any moment
will sour into despair: as if the emptiness on screen

is more real: like those teens, one moment wilding
into ecstatic frenzy, the next exacting grim

revenge, and their discovery of the others alive,
the all humanity they thought long dead, like

the moment on the island Crusoe finds
the alien footprint: the questions such discovery

poses pang in the throat like judgement: my
favourite stream is only sound, a windharfe

reporting on the weather in Ulm: one day
it was offline, and in the stillness of the Sydney

afternoon I craved the low Aeolian rumble
arriving from across the globe, hoped for friction

in the air, its live commentary a diagnosis: the kids
fall from space, come back to the earth they’ve

never known and help to spread infection—hubris,
curiosity—and of course (and yes, I know how

often, recounting television moments, I fall back
upon the words of course) I understand their

hedonistic appetites, but when that drama,
the one of getting what you want, plays out it’s

time to pick them off, to show us our fatalities

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