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Playing Catch with Cracked Globes

by ELIOT KATZ

 

The first thing to remember is bend at the knees & keep yr back
relatively straight.
It could be a long day filled with leapfrogging pitfalls–
easy to throw out spinal discs or lose a wig in the wind.
Most important is learning the two-arms-underneath technique:
Let the globe come to you, breathe in slowly, feel torso expand,
follow yr breath out yr nostrils, winding its calm way through
the wintry universe.
Visualize a cracked globe landing softly in your cupped palms
and whatever else you do, don’t squeeze! Or shards will fly!
Anonymous millions have had throats slashed, parliaments
dissolved,
for such frivolous crimes as a too-tight grip, or turning away.

How return the globe to its sender depends on its age.
If built early, circa 140 B.C. Greece, by Crates of Mallus,
better not flick your wrists.
Don’t dig fingers in for a long throw, this globe stops time–
losing this one can incur the wrath of powerful gods no living
human being remembers.
Such gods refused to stay still long enough to be mapped.
Or breaking this ultimate globe could be a sign fortune on
its way–will you take such a gamble?
If the globe’s from 1492, it is likely the oldest in existence.
Put the vast blue Atlantic southern hemisphere as it looked
before transoceanic piracy
in yr throwing hand, raise it above your head & hold until
your sender is ready.
If necessary, wait frozen & careful all night in that half-throwing
position–
it’s your butt on the line any time either of you, sender or catcher,
drops this ball.

Stare closely like a kabbalist at the letters on yr globe & it will
slowly reveal its codes,
its iconic, tectonic, temporal, and presentational techniques.
In what ways is your globe already out of date & yet also
a compass for the future?
How does its cartography construct the world as well as
reproduce it?
Did he or she who created this globe pre-plan where its initial
cracks would appear?
Who agreed to draw its national borders in solid black marker
rather than dotted gray lines?
What social and cultural features has the author left out by paying
such close attention to proportion and typography?
Is this a Wolves of War globe, or a mapping of peaceful
emigration routes?
How this globe reveal its historical contingency?
How are border cross-pollinations illuminated for a nation’s
internet connections?
Which regions are lost to the astronaut’s eye on a hazy day?
Did this globe’s creator sufficiently appreciate the value
of a mercury-free River Nile?
Who decided to include those beautiful & hideous flags?
What company or political foundation funded the making
of this globe anyway?

Have your masking tape ready, your crazy glue, your double
lines of epoxy,
steady your lavender candle to drip hot wax to cover up the
smallest, freshest cracks.
Trace the open space from its ruptured beginning to end.
See if it passes through a country called East Timor, Zaire,
Panama, USSR.
See if the East and West of Germany are divided, the North
& South of Vietnam.
Does the globe say Israel and/or Palestine? How many asterisks
appear next to the name Jerusalem?
Is Algeria independent yet? Is Bosnia its own nation?
Are no-fly zones still marked off in North & South of Iraq?
Under which flag does Hungary fly? Is there a sign saying
whether its Jews have been placed on cattle cars yet?
How many totalitarian regimes can you name touching at least
one point in the breach?
Can you find any Native Americans on a 17th century
European-made globe?
How does your globe assign responsibility for Africa’s civil wars?
In 1966, a 95-year-old Parisian globe cracked all the way open
to reveal an unhatched egg–
shake yr globe a little to see if there are any secret prizes inside.
Then you can decide whether to try silver duct tape or a
futuristic glue,
or you can check www.repaircrackedglobes.com, but few
international surfers will find exact answers there.

If the crack runs anywhere within continental United States,
you have a complicated task
in your open palms. You are looking at a country that has set
examples of cultural freedom
and semi-democratic elections for much of the world, a country
that helped erase the axis of fascism
from your three-dimensional mid-20th century map, that has
built an unprecedented middle class
which doesn’t look down often, that has committed & sponsored
enough violence in five-plus centuries
to embarrass mapmakers from the top pole to the bottom.
Look at three different globes from the 19th century–can you
see how the numbers
of U.S. states and U.S.-claimed foreign territories increase?
Does your globe use “America” as shorthand for the U.S. of A.?
Feel the surface of the continent: Can you sense the gorgeous
Great Lakes, the magnificent Mississippi,
the majestic Rocky Mountains, the Grand Canyon wonder
of the world?
Can you feel the dangerous radioactivity emanating from land
lined with plutonium hair triggers?
If you are rubbing a cracked globe on your Nebraska rocking
chair porch
remember that when you get too angry in Wichita another player
shudders on her Angolan rocks.
Meditate on this knowledge for 48 hours and you will know
whether this is a globe that should be returned via overhand toss
or bowling ball roll,
or perhaps one of those rare globes that can be drop-kicked
from the White House lawn.

If yr globe was made during the new millennium it will be difficult
to locate origins of the crack.
There are Al Qaeda volcanos capable of causing leaks anywhere.
There are Colombian army earthquakes, Chechnyan firestorms,
religious wars baking in the Kashmirian sun,
burial grounds housing too many bodies in the Congolese streets,
AIDS spreading alarming rates in every nation with human
populations indexed on the map.
There is a mountain below the Equator called IMF, a WTO River
whose tributaries remain invisible.
There are oil tankers crossing oceans with unknown corporate logos,
tribal warlords and paramilitary death squads, homelessness
& bone-thinning poverty.
The weather become too warm, the weapons too destructive
and too many.
There are random subatomic pin pricks capable of carnage
modern physics cannot yet explain.
Any of these could have cracked the globe you are holding.
Can you examine your globe and discern whether Lula has
been elected president of Brazil?
This may be a globe with potential, perhaps even a globe
worth tossing around for a decade?
Although it looks stationary as you hold it before you, arms
underneath technique,
your globe is revolving at speeds too fast for humans to follow.
Ignore my earlier advice. In truth, no matter what method’s
been used thus far,
there has never been a foolproof way to send back
a cracked globe
without smashing it to bits. But you have made the tough catch
& must do something.
It will be difficult to invent a new way of returning it safely–
in times like these, the imagination is worth more than
a thousand pair of hands.

ELIOT KATZ is the author of three books of poetry, including Unlocking the Exits (Coffee House Press, 1999). He is a coeditor of Poems for the Nation (Seven Stories Press, 2000), and the poetry editor of Logos, an online politics quarterly at www.logosjournal.com.

 

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