Volume 25, Number 1

The Poet’s Dinner Party

It’s in the news, he said, a woman awoke with
a dead donor’s face. A toddler, birthed from
a frozen embryo, is over a decade old. We’re all
in a Nautilus of one kind or another, living in
our microwaves. One researcher says he’s proven
that your soul weights 21 grams—as much
as a slice of bread. We’re all heard of cryonics,
freezing our heads at near -273 degrees Celsius
till a distant tomorrow. Didn’t Armstrong do
his waltz on the moon? With DNA, you can
tell whether you’re kin to a pauper, emperor,
or dinosaur. Today, you can clone yourself.
Cherise can marry Sharon. Loverboy, that
Facebook sweetheart you’re wooing on-line
might likely be, 6 to 1, a silicone babe. What’s
that, Viagra? Your next-door neighbor does
the Paso Doble, even Jive. He pedals, taps, defies
gravity with a pacemaker. Still, Geoffrey (flushed
in his flaming ascot and ivory dinner jacket),
had only gotten started."Oh, and I see Dead
people," he said, not feeling any G-stresses
or weightlessness. But his invitees only bellied-
up: spiced orange chicken breasts, florets of
broccoli, peach cobbler, dips. They all sang,
"More tequila, please" over fifths of Scotch,
vodka, wine. The women stripped, doing their
never-did-befores. Nobody left early. Later,
Geoffrey sat at on his bed with a Southern belle
he barely knew. They took the yellow and blue
pills for rapture, but it wasn’t enough. He showed
her his revolver. Who’d dare play Russian
Roulette? Maybe I will, he thought. It wasn’t
hard, really. In his sleep he replayed what
happened while unfurling apps—transitions,
cross-fades, zooms, in, out. People could see
his colorized, lacquered star’s face after the
newsman said, “We interrupt this show to ...”
In the morning, he’d feel diffused, bored, play
video games about stem cells, how researchers
could now shift one person’s genetic’s (at birth)
to another’s body and brain. The curious thing
was that when he pushed the wrong button
he got this—a poem that teased his eye and joystick,
that would not likely find itself in any “best”
anthology, but was extraordinary: sensory cueing,
fuses, clairvoyance, riddles, en route to an upper
three-forty mile, and he couldn’t write it himself.

—Isaac Black