An Exhibition of Artful Dodging

The art opening reception ran from
five to seven. I sat at a little
wooden table uncorking bottles,
pouring wine, red or white for our
full house of thirsty patrons
who enjoyed a scrumptious array of
salami, crostini, thin-sliced baguette,
focaccia, Utica tomato-pie,
Italian cookies & gourmet cheeses,
then walked about and talked through masks
about the generous display
of evocative provocative
well-worked oil on canvas
while they waited for what proved to be
our finest artist’s talk ever.
A work sold, then after the Q & A
pandemically exhausted folks lingered
seeking succor for their isolation.

This morning while talking to Kim
over mugs of black coffee,
I wondered out-loud if we had been
at a similar opening in ‘62
during the Cuban Missile Crisis
if there would have been zero talk
‘bout the very real threat of sudden Hydrogen doom.
I’ve read accounts of folks then having
End-of-the-World drug & fuck-fest parties
(Just ask Ed Sanders)
Now, here damn-near sixty years later
w/ a similar fate hanging over our heads,
I heard not one word all night
‘bout the hair-trigger crisis in the Ukraine.
Not one word ‘bout Biden or Putin
Not one word ‘bout hypersonic missiles
Not one word ‘bout the potential
for nuclear annihilation.

Though we in reality had no great agency then in ‘62,
we still regarded ourselves as citizens
in a democracy where at least in theory
our leaders represented our interests,
which didn’t include dying to stop the commies,
(aka maintaining American-empiric-hegemony).
We entertain no such delusions now
living as we do in a bald-face corporate Kleptocracy
where the last vestigial traces of democracy
were long ago sold and where now
we’re merely a flock of feckless,
voiceless, powerless, no-account peasantry
sipping wine & exchanging pleasantries.

Just nineteen or so years ago before
Bush’s bullshit WMD-get-Saddam invasion,
millions hit the streets in boisterous,
world-wide protestation, but
with the liberal media’s betrayal
(Just ask Chris Hedges)
our resistance was futile.
However, the mere having of voices
was somehow more reassuring than
the current silence of the lambs
on their way to slaughter.
It’s not that I think we should have
stood ‘round chatting ‘bout Armageddon,
It’s good we could make a getaway w/ art.
I’d just like us to curtsy to the context
as a clear admission that there’s something—
the Doomsday Clock at 100
mere seconds to midnight—
just outside our consciousness
we’d like to obediently forget.

Orin Domenico is a poet living in Utica, New York. His latest volume is My Rap Sheet is Long (Black Rabbit Press).