Geoffrey Long


The ball has gone down, and nothing comes.
They said that the past was prologue, but that’s not entirely correct;
No, not even a vague semblance of the truth.
The past was epilogue, and now the present
Is nothing more than the ever-stretching void after the fact,
The forever silence waiting for the dead’s next breath,
Waiting for the next scene after the closing credits.
The past is past, and the future, empty,
A husk devoid of optimism, and now even its pessimism;
The only remaining option is to find a different road than the future.

The ball has gone down, and now we are suffocating.
In this void between the centuries we stand looking uncertainly at one another,
Fossilized by the uncanny inability to visualize any year with more than two zeroes
As anything shy of Tom Swift, or Buck Rogers.
We look imploringly at one another, each of us wondering desperately
When someone will break out the tinfoil jumpsuits and rocket packs,
And when the first spaceship is supposed to come into sight over the skyline.
Slowly, one by one, we sit Indian-style on the floor
And quietly wait for time to make up its mind.

A week ago, a million desperate prophets cried in anxious unison
That the end of the world was surely upon us.
They had, of course, been saying such things for centuries,
Seeking in vain to regain their honor, their credibility,
And praying at every twilight that the sunlight never comes.
Now, however, they sit beside us,
Placards lowered between their legs in impotent vindication,
They've no more idea of what comes next than we do.

What happens at the end of the world, not even Nostradamus could have predicted.
The clocks, frozen for a few heartbeats in hesitant contemplation,
Begin to tick again. Backwards.
Time has simply stopped at the end of the world,
Looked about itself and thought, "Huh. So this is what it’s like.
Well, why not go the other way for awhile?"
And, one by one, we stand. Now helpless passengers,
The matter of free will once and for all decided,
We begin to retrace our steps.

We start dating exes whom we no longer love,
But as time continues to recede we see how things went the way they did,
See the reasons behind the consequences and realize they weren’t as bad as all that,
But we know in each case how the relationship will end,
With an introduction by a friend, or a too-cute scene in a bar.
Beginnings and endings have traded places,
And life overflows with tragedy,
Because every love necessarily ends just when it was getting interesting.

Best of all, or worst of all, we don’t forget.
Blessed now with perfect hindsight, it becomes easier to forgive slights.
Whole wars are forgiven, because even though we can’t change anything,
We see things illuminated in the unique headlights of history.
Whole generations, knowing where they went wrong,
Wander through their old familiar stomping grounds
With a smile and a shrug, screwing up and shrugging it off because it wasn’t their fault,
Time made them do it, or time is merely making them do it again.
It’s already been done the first time. Everything’s been decided.
Nothing left to do now but enjoy the ride.

One by one, we shrink.
We regain our virginities with the nobility of menopause,
Our hairlines creep their way down our foreheads,
Wisdom teeth crawl reluctantly back up into our gums
And we find baby teeth in the strangest places around the house,
Silently compelling us to work them back in,
Wiggling them back and forth until they are once again secure.
Every day something old works its way back into place,
Something works a little easier than it did the day before,
And the whole world begins to regain a sense of wonder.

Objects, instead of being invented, are gratefully retired.
Having seen what all they could do, all our mechanical gods
Are disassembled, sorted out into components and parts, and filed away.
Wonder regains its kingdom, both in nature and in the antique.
We remember why the sky is blue, how plants make energy from the sun,
How a computer juggles vast numbers with little points of light,
And why a beautiful butterfly and an ugly caterpillar are so intimately connected.
But suddenly, chlorophyll and pupae and circuitry are once again things of magic,
And the world is filled with squeals of delight and whole cacophanies of clapping hands.
We retain all our years and years of experience. The difference is,
The apathy has simply wandered away.

Our parents and mentors return to us.
As children, we climb back into their arms and tell them the stories of our lives.
We tell them what we did, what torches we carried, what innovations we bore,
And they listen intently with amazement and pride.
As we grow younger still, it’s like night falling on Christmas day.
Tired and happy, we crawl back into our cribs, and then into infancy,
And, fulfilled, we return to our wombs. We have reviewed our lives,
Our reversed millennium a chronological Saint Peter,
And having forgiven ourselves our sins, we return to a warm, red heaven
And slip back and away, into Time.


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© Geoffrey Long, 1999
Lines: 93
Words: 890

Publication Status

  1. Inkblots Magazine
    Spring, 1999


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