The Midnight Curve

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The following is from the juvenilia of the early Imperial poet Ruth Harlequin (born 1994). Despite the clear compositional flaws of this early work (dated to 2497) it provides an early glimpse at the themes she would explore in the 27th and 28th centuries.


On the dirt paths that lead away
From dusty English hedgerows in the grey,
When the setting sun turns the grass
Into a strange and pinkish pallour,
A pallour of desperation,
When the hungry sun paws and claws at the memory of its former self.
That time of hazy day when the beast shines down
And all seems hidden,
All a lie beneath its happy rays.
All is turned, now, turned to dusk,
The truth of night crawling slowly
As shoes kick up the frail dust on the path
And the trees rustle in the breeze
And you watch.

Mud turned to grass turned to mud
As sheep and men tread upon it,
In timeless veneration of the old ways
Of the old rites bleeding through
To make our present lives so quick in rot and ruin.
Lines become pronounced, paved, expanded,
Monorails and trains rise like mausoleums
For the notion of a mausoleum.
Tombstone carriages are rushing through the night
Their living peering meekly
Over deep lakes and dishonoured paths
Where shepherds used to ply their trade.

What was it like to have ancestry?
To know the turning of the seasons, the play of weather and weir
That would take one's maiden aunts, one's grandmothers,
One's smiling childhood faces
That never had any worries except in one's understanding, long after the fact
Of adult and childhood memory
And arguments ill-understood.
To be, to live, to exist upon a wire
Strung out in a continuing spiral
Of birth, maturity, love, age, death-

Seeing in the old woman by the firelight, with stories so distant
The future of one's self, looking into the eyes of her past
A thing remote, of distance, of mystery
Of patterns long-sketched out and barely changing
So timeless that all meaning came only from continuation,
No endings or beginnings.
Only the repitition in endless cycles of seasons
Snow falling on autumn leaves falling on summer grass
One life in many lives, one meaning in many meanings,
No death in the knowledge of continuation, of having been made complete,
To an everlasting rest, or oblivion, or both,
And all was settled,
A whirlpool of perpetual autumn,
A ballerina dancing with her face still smiling,
And then the clocks all stopped.


The cottage is bare
The food is all gone
She stands outside
Inside the autumn cold
One more day
One more life
Another movement,
And the Reaper dies
And the breeze runs through
And it howls its way
And knocks all the pots
And has nothing to say
And she is undone
She has no more to do
The sun is not raising
Its hullabaloo
The thatch and the straw
Enters its maw
The house
The house
The house is

When they find her,
Coming in from the long field
And the golden corn,
They rush to comfort her,
Laying down their burdens to help, to aid,
While all around the wind rips in,
Slicing new wounds
Making new thoughts
The desire to just stop, just for a day,
As the open sky rides roughshod on their backs
And makes them too old, too old for sleeping on the fields
So they swallow the bitter pill
Or sell themselves for dreaming
And the sun seems a little lighter on their back
While the trees grow from their hearts,
Their lonely hearts,
Too old for caring, for loving
When the story that bound them is gone
And there's no profit at the wishing well.


The building is not used any more. The men and women inside pack it up, weeping slighly, wishing there could be some other way but there is none.
The rain keeps falling, falling, as they say a goodbye, a funeral to funerals, Morecambe and Sons packs up its coffins and bereavements and organisational frameworks and sympathetic mourners and walk out into the storm, the lightning falling but not hitting, to become new people.
The roof begins to fall in, as urban explorers and adventurers and pain-lovers looking for rusted nails come traipsing through.
Sterilised rats keep staring through the holes, as the wallpaper chips, as the leaks intensify, as the innards are eaten and looted
The worms of the overworld gnaw through walls, gnaw through wallpaper, gnawing, gnawing
The iron rods embedded in the concrete rise out of their crumbling mountains
It is an ending, it is a beginning, it is a death
The reapers of the mind will always come, killing forms to make anew, killing poems to spring them up again, change and death and change and death until there is no difference
Until the ballerina and the dance are one
Until it's all iron-
The ruin awakens, crying as a newborn. It sits where it was, perfectly still, as the men and women inside shine lights, weeping slightly, happy that they have found this place in which they can be
They light candles and sing songs of the old country, that discovered country,
They play guitars and form workers' communes and don't think about the inscription,
"Memento Mori" above the door,
It's not words any more. It's just a form, a geometric shape,
A monument to alchemical precision
Nobody speaks Latin any more
Latin is a dead language
And nothing is dead
Life expands into its space-


-and expands more. Its greenery
Rises up from the rainforests, from the savannahs,
From the gaps between the sands, from the ocean floors,
Inexorably, constantly, rising,
The tendrils merge and split and coalesce
In blocks of mass that dominate
Like the furnaces of empire
And squeeze the air out of the sky
Spreading into nooks, into crannies,
Into the gaps between the atoms
Into mouths and noses and the breathing bodies
That can't breath or struggle any more.
And all is immobile
In the endless march of life
In the cessation of all cessation
And there are no more ancestors,
No more stories, no more creation
Just the green,
Moss and lichen, flesh over flesh
That can't be seen
Because only the life can see,
And the life is growing
Eating, consuming
Colonising, imperialising
Making all one
Across the stars, making all one.

In the one there is nothing. A zero
Its absolute line singular and eating
Itself into itself into nothing.
A ballerina moves, in timeless grace,
Spinning and spinning and spinning more
Faster, faster, deeper, keener,
The human frailties and flaws ironed out
The motion's weakness becoming strong
Reinforced iron leaking from the armpits
Which are not armpits but hinges, joints,
The face is scrubbed away, the hair flies off
The flesh is moved into movement, into light,
Into insubstance,
Speed upon speed so that even the fire goes
And all that's left is movement
And the movement becomes the circle
And the circle goes on forever
Silent and still in its fury and noise.
Lolling and lolling and lolling.


A man sits. The light is reflected
In the wet milk of his eyes
As the other man smiles and waves and slicks his hair back with a mullet grin
And stares out of his box
Into the eyes, the milquetoast eyes
His own existence oozing into the air
No sleep, no dreams, no pentecostal fire,
Just an open mouth, lolling,
And the television sirens calling.

This is but one state of being
In a world so ordered in its flux
A span of a thousand generations
Where one can sit and stare
And then get off their feet and walk
March, mine, replace
Create empires and kingdoms and New Kowloons
Reinvent oneself a thousand times
Experience it all, under the sun,
Become mulch, become man
Become alive in another way
That seems the same as every other way
But slowly, slowly,
That ordered chaos cracks its edges,
The whirlpool does not last, the hurricane retreats
The waves begin a new pattern
A swirl of activity to prove them wrong
To prove them all wrong-

And so, five centuries after we started
While the midnight curve stretches ever on
New worlds and ideas, with all the time on Earth
The body perfected, the mind swirling upwards,
The promise of future, of the reclamation of the damned,
Of the end of death truly ending death-
And still I think back
To the dirt paths
To the grandmothers
To the lives that were not parades of novelty
Of whipping-dens of orgies choosing their own trauma
Instead of time thrusting it upon them.
Under the maglev lines and concrete halls
Where the dirt tracks lie
In a quiet silence, under the bare stars
A blade of grass that bitter water grows
In memory of all that went before
Takes its old place, its old pattern,
By the sheep trail
And looks up
And blinks
And dies.

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