The Tunnel; Buster's Incite, er Insight

My son Buster has dabbled in poetry here and there, mostly in writing lyrics for his pop-tunes. When he writes seriously, though, he sometimes reminds me a little of Stephen Crane – not in terms of technical proficiency, of course, but in terms of imagery that can make you wince.

He and I chatted briefly this morning about some school issues and then about the political/economic stories in the press, and the growing sense so many of us have that things are too quickly moving us to a new and chilling place. It almost feels like the current leadership – having been detained in their agendas for the last 8 years – are working double-time to bring themselves “up to date” with some giant political calendar (today we read let’s ditch the dollar and sign on to some world currency?)

Whatever. Things certainly do seem like they’re heading out of control very quickly, and I cannot tell you have many emails I’ve had saying, essentially, “we’re 60 days into this presidency, and America will already never be the same.”

There are some, of course, who might like that, but I’ve always been a fan of the -admittedly imperfect – free market, capitalist system over the socialist one. Capitalism, for all its faults spurs creativity and allows individuals to dream dreams. Socialism fosters mediocrity and tells you to put your dreams away for the sake of a collective.

A little after our chat, Buster sent this my way – a new poem that apparently sprang forth from nothing in particular. It is about America, and Americans, asleep but not really dreaming, anymore.

I print it here with his permission.

The Tunnel
The explosion went off behind me
I didn’t look because I didn’t want to
I didn’t care

I couldn’t feel the heat at first
The floor shook and from behind me I could feel a soft breeze of cool air
For a moment I was on a beach
Sea air lashing my backside
But too dark to keep my delusions, I returned to my tunnel

I’ve been here as long as I can remember
Walking in the dark
Perhaps I was born here
But if it’s always been dark how would I know light?

I walked onward down the tunnel for many years before the explosion went off
It was larger back then
Now either the walls are narrow or I am large
My brother and I used to laugh and run from wall to wall
Now we walk single file, my brother and myself, to fit and to proceed

I never ask where we are going
I just follow him as we proceed further into the darkness
He’s never said anything about what lies ahead
But the darkness does not gain
I assume light is at the end of the tunnel
It always is.

Nowadays he doesn’t say much
We can’t look at each other because the tunnel is too narrow
Sometimes I wonder if he remembers I’m here at all
I don’t bother asking anymore
I’m not sure if I want to talk to him anyway

It’s never laughter anymore
His answers became monosyllabic long ago
Always grunting in agreement or moaning in otherwise
Always the same
Like the walls of this tunnel that now scrape our shoulders
Repetitive like the darkness that surrounds us
That has rubbed off onto the surface of his skin

Then the explosion

First the cool air blew softly
It felt wonderful on my neck
I sighed and smiled
My worries began to leave
I no longer cared about why we walked down this tunnel
It was pleasant; that was reason enough

The wind grew stronger and warmer
And I didn’t mind at all
It had been cold in the tunnel for so long that the warmth felt good
And with the warm air light began to grow from behind us
Dim light filled the tunnel, slowly evaporating the darkness

My brother turned his head to me
He looked at me in surprise
We both blinked, we hadn’t used our eyes for a long time
I looked up
I saw strings of lights that had gone out long ago
A memory as dim as the light that grew around us reminded me that they had once brightened this tunnel
I remembered them now
To my left there was an arrow on the wall
It pointed behind us
Toward the light

“Brother” I smiled “Have we been going the wrong way?”

Nothing from him
No grunt, no moan
Just a blank stare at the light from behind us

Then horror

He turned and ran until he disappeared down the tunnel.
I didn’t follow
I enjoyed the heat
The light
It was filling my head with memories

I turned too and began to follow the arrow
The walls began to grow wide again
My shoulders were mercifully freed from the rough concrete walls
The heat was growing now
Along with the light
The air grew thick
As I walked forward I even began to sweat
But I was on my own
I was free
I was happy.

I could see down the tunnel that it curved into a turn
The light was around the corner and growing ominously
It reminded me of a freight train
Steadily increasing
No rush

But there were no tracks in this tunnel
Just concrete

The heat was intense now
But I moved onward the light was bright
Memories long forgotten were cramming themselves into my head
But something still had not been restored
Something I should not have forgotten had not returned

Then I saw it

Great billows of fire took the turn of the tunnel at break neck speeds
I didn’t even turn to run
I stood my ground
Raised my arms

For a split second I can feel the heat of the fire warm me to the core
I feel whole
The flames softly lick my skin and tickle
For a split second
I smile

I take a step

Then the pain
Searing agony stretching over my entire being
The initial force knocks the wind out of me, but leaves me standing
As I inhale I feel the fire fill my lungs
The white hot agony screams for me to give up and die

I take another step

My eyes no longer see, just white
My ears no longer hear, just roars
My nose no longer smells, just charred meat
My tongue no longer tastes, just burns
My hands no longer feel

I take my last step

Then nothing

I remembered too late that we were meant to stop it
When the lights went out we forgot, my brother and myself

Copyright Buster 2009

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