We Still Like Ike
Volume III, Issue II - Fall 2012
  • The Harmsworth Encyclopaedia in Eight Volumes, Vol VI. Mark—Poetry, 1921; Coffee Inn English Library, unsorted, Vilnius, Lithuania

  • When wandering old encyclopedias, among the many wonders, wonder first at which entries bear a drawing and which do not. I get why poetry does not, but why diagram cyclone but not monsoon, or offer a portrait of Moliére and not Monet, mugwort but not mudar (they’re both plants but only mugwort merits illustration) or instead of megalosaurus, we get megatherium, skeleton of, “an extinct fossil edendate of large size, allied to the existing sloths and ant-eaters…as large as an elephant”? A skeleton’s a kind of diagram of an animal, a hopeful one, a doubtful one taken from a dream filtered through the available evidence, what we once thought this beast might look like if reassembled, with its huge, prehensile claws resembling hands.

    You can see the human in it. In assembling skeletons we often build ourselves again, our fears, what we imagined the world before us might be like. Of course it would be terrifying, filled with fear and threat for us. We should be happy to be living now, not born to run from thunder. Like it we too are tenuous.

    Did you resemble this illustration, dear Megatherium? Were you more sloth, or closer to a bear, as research since suggests? Was your world filled with sadness or with hope, if you know what  ............

  • those things are? Could you sense it passing like a northern summer or did you glory in it, stripping bark off trees, terrifying smaller beasts as a game to pass the time? If you knew you would be modeled by a company called Paleocraft in resin 10,000 years after your death, at 1/35 scale, what would you think? How would you respond to your review in Prehistoric Times #41, in the diminutive, as “Meg…fat, dumb, and happy”? Is happiness knowing you will be remembered as a monster? What do you know of happiness, or fatness, of the poetry of pain?

    Would it please you to know that your model, like yourself, is now out of print, but that, like your bones, traces of it still haunt the expired pages of the internet? What would it take to know your nut-sized brain, your rudimentary intelligence? What secrets did you know about the world before our own? Would you have advised me not to eat the wild-caught fish or forest mushrooms in Lithuania, irradiated still by Chernobyl, twenty-five years before?

    I suspect you knew: to live is to be irradiated. It is a sacrifice, this life. If you got enough, like Godzilla, resurrected lizard, you might be made to feel our rage at being, imagined on the page. Though  ............

  • we never imagined you as arch-foe for the mega-lizard, we might have, offered you up to root against (as we got to know Godzilla, we would often take his side against the other interlopers, because at least he was our terror, and long acquaintance breeds a sympathy), like other pretenders to the throne: Rodan, Megalon, King Kong, Mothra, Ghidorah, Destoroyah, Space Godzilla, Hedorah, Mechagodzilla, Gigan, King Caesar, Titanosaurus, Zilla, Orga, Megaguirus, Battra, Gorosaurus, Kumonga, and Minilla.

    If given the chance, would you rise and take your place in lights? Would you lay waste to the remains of the Fukushima reactor crossing the Pacific to make land in California in a year, setting America awash in another wave of toxic junk? Or will you arise some day in the future, your displayed bones somehow resurrected after the right sort of disaster, and loose your rage on us?

    Knowing that we made you doesn’t help the wonder. Even then we were sure that we we were right. This is only our most recent mistake; I’m certain it will not be our last.

    (after Paul Guest)

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