The poet I saw read earlier tonight said Ohioans think California is an endless possibility. Later, they realize California does not exist. She recited 28 short poems aloud
in front of large photographs from her childhood on a slide projector. Her son, who she jokingly referred to as “the AV guy”, flipped to a different slide each time a poem ended.
Some of the slides were duplicates or, as though they had speech impediments, needed to stutter for a little while to become visible. Not all of the poems were interesting but it was good to see her read them, concerned with preserving a distant part of her life and speaking about it in front of strangers.
I would like to belong to an era and to have lived in a period of time in which the world was distinct and easily shared with other people. Some days I think I may have been born in a stopgap between eras and become afraid. What if I spend all of my youth anxiously nostalgic: bitter and jealous of the generations that came before me and when I am old the feelings of emergent generations are no longer ones I relate to or can understand?
I tried to the listen to the news on the radio driving home because I would like to understand the world but I quickly grew confused, flipping between the different stations. One of the stations was called “Left”, but I decided I didn’t want to be limited to news of a similar ideological pole to my own, especially when I am not even sure what my own entails in practical terms. For several minutes, I listened to a British station that told about the new pope and some of the problems the old one has left unresolved. I grew angry at the cardinals and began to identify a great selfishness on their part in choosing to elect a new pope instead of continuing the brief, popeless interim that I found so special and interesting. It was a good thing to speak about with strangers besides the usual boring things, and checking up on the situation in the Vatican was an quick way to feel informed or reminded about global affairs without devoting immense time or researching complex issues.
We could have been the popeless generation: made distinct by the only prolonged papal vacancy in modern human history. Professors would speak of us in the future, chalking up the many complicated, inexact problems of our world to an absent or diminished Vatican state. No one would have to wonder about the housing crisis or the war on terror or dubstep or contentious prescription drugs in this country. We could stop worrying and grow old together, always smiling stupidly at strangers of comparable age in bars or on the train, silently linked by this one simple, shared absence, clinging to it, freed of endless possibilities and confusions.