Engineeered Apocalypse: Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Nine Billion Names of God”

The end of the world has weighed heavily on the mind of humankind since we emerged onto the 4.5-billion-year-old planet we call home some 200,000 years ago. Variations on the apocalypse have coursed through every form of expression since we started painting on cave walls, blinking into each dawn, cowering from storms and eclipses, imagining all-powerful gods to whom we might appeal for benevolence and mercy.

A kind of existential angst and sometimes outright terror underlies much of the literature and other arts that have emerged over the eons to grapple with the specter of not only our own lives ending, but the final destruction of the world.

Indeed, our powerful, sometimes outright narcissistic sense of Self should probably be forgiven for wondering whether the world should even go on without us—how dare it?!

These ‘prophets’ tend to have one hand pointing to an exact date of doom and their other in th...

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Ecstasy Fast & Slow

A modern wedding scene on the dance floor, amidst the mostly late ’20s-early ’30s crowd that are peers of the newly betrothed. It’s been a couple hours since the vows and dinner and multiple, somewhat long-winded toasts that seem to have become an obligatory feature of weddings today. (“I first met Sam in third grade when…”)

Then comes the new hubby-wifey dance to their own special song, its dying notes prompting the DJ to finally crank up the music and the pace as all the waiting young’uns and no small number of old’uns stream onto the dance floor. (It’s early yet, and everyone feels young and renewed at a wedding—at least for a while.)

Their single-minded goal: to commence the dead-serious ritual of celebrating the young couple and expressing all the good mojo they feel in bearing witness and immersing fully in such a joyous occasion.

And “immersing fully” is what the dancers most definitely do.

As the...

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For the Broken-Winged Bee In Search of Its Hive

            FOR THE BROKEN-WINGED BEE IN SEARCH OF ITS HIVE 

                                        By Andrew Hidas

Such nobility in its helplessness,
Not desperate, merely determined,
Heeding no other impulse,
Following no other program
But the relentless quest
To rejoin its mates and
Once again serve its queen.

Crossing vast swaths of concrete,
Like a nomad in the Sahara
Shorn of water and shade,
Exposed and alone in the world.

Surely, such an epic endeavor
Deserves no less than a film score
With mournful violins and a cello
Accompanying each tortuous step.

Instead, an audience of two,
The only music our murmurings
Of admiration and lamentation
For this most primitive of struggles
Against the encroaching doom.

We see ourselves, of course,
In the bee’s long journey,
Seeking home and the solace of our tribe,
The temple of our familiars*
Who wait with words of balm.

Approaching...

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Two Autumn Poems by Two “Robert”s

Fall descended on Durham recently like someone turned a key and announced, “New season, step up now, no dallying!” It had been summer-hot and sticky per usual through most all August and the first three weeks of September. Then came the autumn equinox on the 22nd with a full day of intermittent rain, and early the next morning, upon opening the door to the sun porch, “Whoa! Where’s my sweatshirt?”

Sure, days are still getting up in the mid-to-upper 80s with that nice penetrating fall warmth that somehow never feels hot, but the heat and especially the humidity have begun leaching from the air every night, the nascent crisp morns letting us know there’s no going back to summer of 2021, seeya next go-round.

That’s a welcome development down here in the Southern climes where the dog days insist on their due in deep summer and leashes aren’t even required to keep the natives quietly restrained, g...

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Only Republicans Can Save America Now

The temptation is to look away, if just for a while. After all we have been through—fire and flood, pestilence, wars gone wrong, the savage persistence of hunger and homelessness, the slaughter of children in school hallways, the huddled masses repelled at our border, the daily ravings of a would-be dictator who is neither gone nor forgotten—we can be excused for wanting to lose ourselves in the sudden turning of the season and its poems, the music of the heavens, the antics of children and kittens and clouds.

The quotidian as succor, relief, our very salvation.

But peril lies that way. The pernicious forces of evil that begat an insurrection with its *“foul spirit”* of extremism mere months ago still bestride our land, endlessly recounting a settled election, creating barriers to future voting, empowering partisan state legislatures to overturn elections at their pleasure.

These gathering clouds are n...

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