Tuesday, April 05, 2022

The Torrid Zone

Journey with me to a far region of the mind
Ponder the daily reality lived by so much of mankind
There's no escape from these ongoing acts of violence
This disturbing tranquility we face, the rest is silence

Certainties were turned to dust, we learned, back there yonder
The quiet revolutions that were launched so quickly foundered
Despite the debts foretold, many enjoined in mindless speculation
With the inevitable result: functional defenestration

They were early to despair, those who keenly felt the weight of ideas
Swiftly disabused of the notion that the burden of loss would be shared
Justice was a mere concept, a quintessential abstraction
And freedom was a feint, a rhetorical misdirection

The suggestion was displacement to the heart of darkness
Secrets and lies, the new formula, method to the madness
Secret lives, newfangled norms, and forbidden encounters
Artful omissions, ellipses, the purposeful restraint of actors

Things fell apart as we entered the new normalcy
Of pulp fictions and the B-movie theory
We did well to wear our masks of civility
Even as our underlying emotion was incredulity

These were strange days full of chaos and disorder
Rituals from time immemorial upended in short order
The lunchtime heists of fond traditions would cause unbounded loss
Remember: the dark matter of communities lies in the least of us

Strange bedfellows, with impunity, were wont to make the road fearful
Their grim militias were unleashed, while their leaders stayed cheerful
Without restraint, they shattered all records in due course
The question remains: what paradise have we lost?

Useful idiots arrived on the scene with their wishful thinking
Causing confusion with their cacophony of prevarication
Meanwhile the codes of martial music were playing a grim drumbeat
As the tanks and the khaki men made their way into our streets

Whether to engage in the battle, ultimately, the choice is yours
Be mindful of a shadow's burden and the spirit's rhythm of loss
To survive the shell game of life, hew closely to the skeptic's credo
The alternative is to sing the inflation calypso and dance the corruption tango

Observers were worried about all this as you must understand
For absolutely everything turned out to be written in sand
But the muse wills what she wants, you made to follow her demands
All the while singing the old spiritual, the creator has a master plan

The indignity of the great game, soul insurance proved to be a fiction
The normalcy prohibition you faced informed the great longing
Your tribe was denied relief in practice,
   and even in their hypertext dreams
The great historian was mistaken about the end of the age of extremes

The cowboy boots of the colossus stood astride the dark continent
The scramble for black gold and trinkets
  destined to adorn the crown jewels
What was manifest was that
  there would be neither truth nor reconciliation
There was no forgiveness and love in this land,
   there were only resource actions

The elephants fought to standstill, it was a split decision
They decided on rewriting the script to resolve the contradiction
Things would be better for them if we got on with forgetting
Far better than reparations, they disdained the act of forgiving

It was your duty of care,
  you turned to social living to get out of the mess
Mindful as you were of the mosquito principle,
   you were determined to bear witness
The interplay of the conflicted legacies of men
  resounds throughout history
What we choose to remember and forget
   is the essence of cultural memory

For want of a bolt, you had close encounters with collateral damage
Where others feared to tread for fear of the noble savages
It was an obstruction of justice, there was no easy way to assign blame
Detached as you were from a land that had herd immunity to shame

You were left to learn by bitter experience the laws of grief
The writing was on the wall, no one was coming to give you relief
Unable to salve the wound, you would face the challenge on your own
Stranded as you were, the Gods bade you welcome to the torrid zone

Africke hath ewer beene the least knowen and haunted parte in the world, chiefly by reason of the situation thereof under the torride Zone; which the ancients thought to be unhabitable. Whose opinion, although in verie deede it is not true, bicause we knowe that betweene the two Tropickes there are most fruitefull countries.

— John Pory, 1600.

In his translation of A geographical historie of Africa by Leo Africanus
Yinka Shonibare MBE at Brooklyn Museum

Soundtrack for this note

Mountain of When by Amel Larrieux


Timing is everything
Observers are worried

This internal displacement is part of a series: In a covidious time.

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Writing log: March 30, 2021

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