Mary Kathryn Arnold

Neither Babylon Nor Byzantium (Ode to Oblivion)

1. You don't need amphetamines or Tabasco sauce
 to keep you awake. It's like the brawny blond boy
 in the baby blue t-shirt said at the support

group: "No one can make me go down," tanned muscles
bulging out of his thin cotton shirt. They can't get
you to switch off either—the drugs, the friends, the miles,

the exhaustion, the useless tools and strategies.
Sleeping is the only love. You said it, David
Berman. I saw God's shadow on the wall too.

Existentialism is for the young (tell that
to Simone deBeauvoir in her heartbreak). L'enfer
c'est moi. Sufficient unto the day is the evil

thereof. Even your mantra cannot abate this
rouncible state of trouble. But what of the days
which dissolve into nights which grind into

one another, so many teeth ground down to
the nerve endings. There is no sufficiency;
only evil, unto the end of this problem.  

Who knows who turns the pages of the cellist's sheet 
music, what nail blows the tire on the car making its 
way through the night's deserted highway, where the 
skeptic gets her instinct to question, when then becomes 
now, how come the specks of air between wick and flame,
why does the storm quiet after raging on and on?

2. When you're better, when the time is back into joint,
you see the musical instruments, some more ravaged
by time than others, behind the glass at the Sally Ann

half-price sale amid the picked-over racks of clothes,
the only valuable things in the store, speaking their silent
truth, the young forlorn men looking longingly through

the glass while their slim young girlfriends try on endless
rounds of discarded clothes that fit so well they can't
make a decision: music is the only love.

Mary Kathryn Arnold lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her work has been published in America and Canada.