The Last Judgement.
Security forcibly remove General Custer
from the Little Big Horn National Heritage site,
drunk and screaming and firing off pistols,
scaring the tourists away,
tearing his hair all out among the memorial stones.
Napoleon’s troops are in Egypt
training mortar fire on the moon.
Salomon Andree is located by GPS
soaring above the North Pole in a hot air balloon.
A gargantuan statue of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov
is being barged back up the Danube.
Astronomers in the Swiss Alps
send Morse-code messages
to Mars by reflecting sunlight off
the glacial slopes of the Jungfrau.
T.E. Lawrence defects to the Taliban.
Cossacks roam the marshes, setting oilfields alight,
avenging the day they were handed over at Lienz.
Bearded Kurds arguing at a feasting table
over Xenophon and the retreat of the Ten Thousand.
Shakespeare hasn’t been the same
since fucking off to Hollywood.
To the streets return
breaker boys , cartwrights, khodebshchiks,
Thermidorians and Jacobites,
strutting Tudor roaring boys
with their doublets and breeches and velvet hats,
she-males glammed up like Hindu gods,
dealers slipping ergot to medievals,
morphine to Victorian lighthouse-keepers.
And a riot of typography,
Fendersmith for hire,
An honourable petition for the benefit of the Armenian Diaspora,
Live Boy-Girl-Boy Hardcore.
The pay-per-view channels
are screening prime-time death penalties.
Bundy, Brady, Wuornos, Gacy.
They’d killed some of them
hundreds of times until it seemed all involved
were going through the motions,
not bothering with last words or last meals,
but the viewing figures never flagged.
Helicopters scour the glens for Sawney Bean and sons.
The penny dreadfuls are full of scandal.
The erotic confessions of Florence Nightingale
and Typhoid Mary.
Beatrice di Folco Portinari has taken out
a restraining order on a certain Durante degli Alighieri.
There’s an epidemic predicted of King’s Fever.
Jim Jones’ People’s Temple’s the fastest growing religion.
An advertorial with Helen of Troy,
peddling make-up products
with ‘500 times more sass appeal’.
Cherokee raiding parties are caught on a mist of CCTV
scalping sales assistants of the month
in out of town supermarkets.
Harvey Oswald is on some talk show,
dodging the question,
claiming all will be revealed
in his forthcoming memoirs
out on hardback.
Mehdi Ben Barka turns up, a hinge in his throat,
before the gates of the Élysée Palace.
Two hundred Algerians emerge from the Seine.
To the dead of Drogheda,
Sabra, the Belgian Congo
judicial enquiries are promised,
a truth and reconciliation committee.
The lawyers drool like Pavlov’s dogs.
Former Pharaohs, holed up in Cairo shacks,
spit venom at the mention of Israel.
The night is filled with Freikorps,
Trojan deserters, roaming bands of Mohocks,
the Shankill Butchers,
nightwalkers concealing misericords
and heads full of visions.
There are children older than their parents,
a busker on the church steps coughing up black soot,
the drowned still down there in the green
river depths and the lightless trenches of the sea
trying to locate the coast.
The lepers scowl at the city gates
beyond the novotels and the industrial estates
and the reeking vats of the tanners
signalling the satellites
in every colour known to man.
Asylums are filled with Messiahs.
A white paper is scrapped
suggesting a relaxation of legislation
of rights for Neanderthals.
A shrapnelled old legionnaire
propped up by the roadside,
a three-legged dog holding his cap,
begs for a currency
that no longer exists.
The dead have returned expectant
but God has wandered off and forgotten us.
The day of judgement is postponed indefinitely.
People pay pilgrimages to the places they died,
bore people in work with inflated accounts,
try to outdo each other in the clubhouse.
Some never recover
from the initial shock of departing or returning.
They stand by the roadsides,
at the scenes of fires and murders,
in subway stations where they’d once
greased the track, mourning for themselves.
On a side-street a kid in a hooded top
and headphones is pasting
a poster over the no bills posted,
all will be prosecuted sign.
Lazarus Colloredo with his brother
Joannes Baptista emerging from his chest.
Zip the Pinhead playing the fiddle.
Hadji Ali the Great Regurgitator.
Johnny Eck the Half-Boy.
Jeff Mangum and Erik Satie
live on the absinthesiser!
Tonight for one night only!
Life goes on after all.