After trading the Western Front for the Eastern Front and the Pope for the Anti-Pope, you were all out of options. There was no consequence for your thoughtlessness, only degrees of interference. One look out the window finds ruined mansions backlit against the setting sun like trapdoors into the earth. The observatory casting shadows across the desert. I was ready to believe anything anyone ever told me, then I saw the scars hidden by your shirt and had second thoughts. Doubt is less like a methodology and even less like a religion. A juggler of machines lives like a recluse until development intrudes. A traveler on the road is more likely to meet his double than I am, though I saw yours yesterday in the street, clumsily getting out of a cab. There’s another kind of experiment that involves a total lack of preparation, but it’s hard to focus on outcomes when the timer is going off in your ear. Every night I drifted off to sleep I thought the furies would arrive just in time. Then the parameters were set, the conditions were defined, and I stood with the other disbelievers watching the eclipse through a homemade lens.
After all environment was removed, the room was lined with lead. The noise was unmistakable, the noise of being lost. I wasn’t ready to comment on events. I was never ready to comment. Seeing an exact correlation, I waited for the backlash to die down. One side dusty, one side glittering, one angle facing, one angle turned away. Indoctrination is inefficient. A guarded battery with special access. The presence of light on a wall. Better to locate a specific time and place. Crowds moving through the streets as though with black wings over empty fields. If you have to try to remember, then the pictures aren’t moving fast enough. Let your training come back to you. Your detachment. Late nights after the kids went off to bed and the cramming really began. The details lack a certain granular clarity, but confinement is atmospheric. Every turn in the story has a variant, every variant a light source. The door opens and you turn your head just in time to catch sight of.
Resistance is not an observable position. The mark on the wall that could be a target. The city closing in from every side. You suggest otherwise with a small gesture of the hand, you deliver yourself in pieces to the enemy. There’s a man sitting comfortably in an armchair, leaning back, arms at rest, legs crossed, giving orders. This is my only memory of power. This is why your thoughts don’t matter, why your ideas don’t count. Every brigade has to light out some time. Receding across a neutral surface. Climbing the ladders between islands. I remember the way whole battalions stopped short at the threshold. As if you could negate yourself on a half-forgotten continent. Our proxies following nothing but their impressions. The same horizon aligning itself over and over. Immersion takes time. However many years too late, you find yourself up for review, your uniform new and starchy, your weapons flashing in the sun.
Keith Newton’s writing has appeared in Denver Quarterly, 1913, Harvard Review, and Typo, and his chapbook of poems Sent Forth to Die in a Happy City was published in 2009 by Cannibal Books. He is co-editor of The Harp & Altar Anthology (Ellipsis Press, 2010), a selection of writing from the online magazine Harp & Altar, which he founded in 2006. He lives in Brooklyn.