A Foreign Correspondent’s Report

by Thomas Piekarski

As alien, a voyager from distant space,
home planet hidden to mankind, I was
curious about the little dot that became
a whirling blue marble as I approached.
I slowed down and prepared a smooth
landing, at a rather odd remote location,
nevertheless peaceful, fairly intriguing,
a place of quite varied abundance. As I
continued my search I came upon cities
and huge chasms, flowing rivers, peaks,
also inhabitants that appeared to be high
forms of life, perhaps some singularity.
I felt compelled to probe their lifestyles,
determine what may prove them unique.

Beginning at a random American suburb
and disguised as your typical average Joe
I encountered a mini mall. Outside a sign
displaying the United States Flag. Inside
to my right a gun shop’s Grand Opening.
I peeked through the door, noticed a wall
of automatic weapons, some 100 models.
A few feet away was a thriving brewpub
through which I conducted a casual stroll.
The people relaxed and thoroughly chatty,
indulging in live sports, darts, exotic ales.
A peculiar paradox disclosed itself to me.
The house for sale can never be a home.
The Homo sapiens value violence or sloth
foremost, and neither of them productive.

But this was only the tip of a proverbial
iceberg. I hadn’t yet delved into the vast
terrain of their history, genetics, concepts
of time and gravity, gross misadventures,
latest mechanics. So much to uncover lest
I be bored and segue to a neighboring orb.
Inasmuch as metaphysics isn’t science I
studied the infrastructure, bridges, dams,
electrical grids, immaculate skyscrapers,
and marveled at these admirable objects.
Then watched aircraft accelerate through
the pale blue sky, robust bicyclists, kids
joyous on playgrounds, and impressed by
the internet distributing communications
to an entire planet. Quite a setup, I mused.
Then to continue, discover what currents
fill their their mortal veins, be they on fire
or filled with ice. Are they constrained by
poverty, inequality, submerged in denial
or the opposite? Do they neglect promises,
maybe heedless that the past is unalterable
and future depends on unknown evolution?

I went right to work and started studying
an immense quantity of literature: Dante,
Gide, Kierkegaard, Donne, Joyce, Dumas,
Freud, Socrates, Marx, Steinbeck, Milton.
Remarkable how much was stored within
the body of their written observance, from
established chronology to the speculative.
He who speaks falsely seeks the counsel
of knaves and serves infamy
emerged as
a common theme. I wondered if true love
was known to them, the ideal not the idea,
or were they so lost in the dark alleys of
metropolitan jungles that it eluded them.

I stripped myself from verification’s tools,
altimeter, compass, slide rule, calculator,
and proceeded to inspect with only native
consciousness what transpired around me.
It was imperative I become invisible as to
avoid disturbing composure of individuals
who play out pantomimes as if the secrets
of existence rest in what unfolds between
the ears. Like indomitable Paul Bunyan I
took gigantic strides over undulant oceans
and broad continents, building memories,
across battlefields where parched bones
were tilled under centuries ago and grew
tall corn stalks, maples, lovely begonias,
astonished at what rich natural plenitude
had been bestowed upon this population.

But there was more than meets the eye,
a plethora of subjects for me to explore,
habits, collective talents, their religious
doctrines, obsessions, moral principals.
In my quest for explanations and while
still invisible, I entered a laundromat
and listened to a lady from India speak
to her daughter about news back home,
heatwave there straining the boundaries
of survival. In the prized city of artists,
she said, eagles fall from a sickly sky.
They drop, dead, land on houses, stores,
monuments. Streets lined with decayed
carcasses: cats, dogs, cows can’t survive.
I’ve witnessed this before, a civilization
tumbling into the deep grave of dystopia
when they’ve fouled the nest and signed
their own death warrant, in Earth’s case
with the blood shed during untold years
withstanding fire, tsunami, constant war.

Or maybe they hadn’t signed their death
warrant, not yet anyway, which justified
further investigation. I don’t trust oracles
so avoided Delphi, also the sacred Andes.
They would only prove distractions from
the task at hand, determination whether
this civilization was actually on the wane
or advancing methodically through space.
I’d seen evidence of descendant cultures,
signs of imminent doom, and supposed
artificial intelligence was taking control.
I believe in statistics, they don’t obscure
like dreams. Accessing the information
available from their Bureau of Statistics
I amassed some downright stunning data:
10% of this world is stable, mostly North
and West, able to provide for basic needs.
With centuries of slavery and subjugation
in their past, even those lack spirituality.
Meanwhile another 90%, predominantly
poor, live in literally abysmal conditions.

The top .1%, the ultra rich, wealthier than
kings of yore, lollygag on foreign shores,
their yachts outfitted with gilded fixtures,
money they compile proportionate to losses
sustained by those submissive laborers who
must get by on less than $5 a day. A world
babbled up from the information highway,
fashionable lies peddled as facts, with debt
mounting, and electronic wizardry inbred.
Some countrymen already embarked upon
a desperate fight for survival: rivers shrink,
food production diminished, crime, blood
spilt as bombs go off and bodies are shred
indiscriminately during dreadful conflicts.
Success isn’t gained solely by machinery.
No inner temple imitating stars replaces
empty hopes, nor deconstructs capitalism,
I came to comprehend as I mulled effects
of their overwhelming commercialization.
Suffering incremental extinction, their only
constant is peril, yet they go on as always,
inventing afterlives flush with angel breath.

As an objective observer, unbiased visitant,
I have no stake in the destiny of this planet.
It could have exploded any instant and I’d
simply have lit out for some more tranquil
domain. Grown intelligence is no mystery.
It’s embedded within those nations whose
inhabitants laud ancestors and successors
alike, divine organisms, anatomically pure.
Naive assertions about scientific genius bid
farewell to free will. I don’t want to subsist
on stagnant knowledge, clockwork, cellular
constructs, seduction, usury, waste, strife.
Here the end is ubiquitous, in birds’ songs,
trapped in layers of smog, industrial death.
Too many speak with forked tongue, those
bogus soothsayers, media superstars, ego-
driven narcissists rising to colossal heights
of wealth and popularity, while conversely
desperate peoples petition for immigration
reform within adjoining countries because
their homelands can sustain them no more.

Will the Metaverse overcome such demise?
The very words are like grim colors mixed,
stirred to grey on a muddy palette. Animals
exert animus sparingly, but humans abound
in it, wear anxiety like a sacramental crown,

incapable of salvation in any rational terms.
Boosted by pretension, possessions, image,
this race that considers itself anointed with
righteousness hurtles ever toward oblivion.
So when heat during summers reaches 140
and air conditioners fail they’ll wilt, expire,
join entombed dinosaurs and Neanderthals.
I expect the collapse of economies, societal
chaos, ecological insolvency, governmental
implosion, while on the road to dissolution.
Although you may deem me a rube penning
opinions you disagree with, I would swear
it isn’t my ambition to plant aspersions into
natives so capable of devotion who’ve built
pyramids, technological wonders and myths
for the universe’s benefit. Yet, not learning
from severe mistakes, they tumble into traps
they can’t get free from. Hopefully their fate
proves other than I’ve predicted considering
present undeniable circumstances. Some day
they’ll be gone, but as for me I’m on to other
celestial exercises. I won’t dwell with beings
who possess the means to thrive, and instead
woo extermination, though I wish them luck.

About the author

Thomas Piekarski

Thomas Piekarski is a former editor of the California State Poetry Quarterly. His poetry has appeared in such publications as The Journal, Poetry Salzburg, Modern Literature, The Museum of Americana, South African Literary Journal, and Home Planet News. His books of poetry are Ballad of Billy the Kid, Monterey Bay Adventures, Mercurial World, and Aurora California.

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