cold war breaks
From Local History
By Erica Hunt

the planet in the song
the planet in the song
which planet do you mean?
The planet in the song.


X number of persons are manufactured in this country every minute. When I finished this sentence there were two more. We are completely unknown to each other so keep a respectful distance. It takes a wrap-around imagination, to separate our lives from the statistics. Look, I'm beside myself. The spotlight is moving in a slow arc in time to the music. Our fingers jump, cast model shadows on the screen. Who am I?

A person in history, we don't know what that means; we have only the social remains, a current preoccupation. A person in History is a person from the past. Someone answers an ad based on a description of the dream body for a modest fee. The tombstones continue the shell game under a parsed identity.

A person looking back sees a long stretch of the things to remember. Important people who have died of proximate causes. The five billion people living now are descended from a handful of common folk who lived on the books. Each day they scaled the dull edge of routine, to shower, write, dress, look after the kids long enough to kiss good morning, go to work, come home so that we may live a life they never imagined in which we shower, write, dress, look after the kids, go to work and come home.

A certain amount can be predicted from the past, I'm told. Power centers run off excess wipe small towns off the map.

The townspeople of Double Park, for instance, drink well water that makes them ill. Their elected officials arrange public meetings as alibis: to execute smiles and thank their critics.

Work is over coming resistance, to push past the sense that there's nothing left to do, it's all written before, falling off the inventory shelves.

Even if the narrator could be trusted what keeps the reader from calling the shots? Many of the names I read about in history books I had never heard spoken aloud. So I put them in a separate place in my head, hung with a do-not-disturb sign. I had every ambition to read the book to the end, even if I had to write it. But I know how it all turns out-the 20th century.

For the movie version, which soon will be the only version anyone remembers, they will employ a cast of several hundred. Leaving out the war scenes for moment, many of the century's towering moments will entail a stunning deployment of the industry's greatest effect.

A dozen artificial suns will be required, each with it's own degree of light. The designer will use thousands of cans of spray dirt carefully died to match the movie's changing terrain. Three of the world's largest cities will block off their streets for a month to accommodate the shooting. Cars will be rebuilt and repainted 16 separate times to be used in the separate chase scenes. An all-star cast as well as a crew of distinguished screenplay writers will be required. A whole new category of police will have to be invented. The longest movie ever made. People will see it in order to be alone.

For the war scenes they will have to employ smoke machines so that the battlefield will float towards the audience. The noise of the artillery will emanate from behind and directly in front of the viewer to enforce the urge to duck and cover. The war will be shot from a perspective that even its veterans never experienced high in their plane, far away studying their gridded screens. Corpses will jump with the impact of automatic gun fire, the bushes will bend maybe even combust as if really in the vicinity of guerrilla fighting in Natal, Compton, East New York. The background will be scored for a 24-hour talk-radio format: a woman's voice reading the news, the names of casualties, cleansers and aerosols without affect. The air breaking down into its component parts, heavy with the odor of spoiling flesh.

The routine explanations of atrocity will be clocked, to present them precisely as they do on the evening news. Anchors will play themselves, mime a mix of concern and fatigue, as if the news has happened to them. It will be entertaining however. A final shot on earth, a ball inclined in the air, framed over a permanent beach suspended in a dark blue firmament.

I turn off the conveyor belt. Sooner or later history catches up.


Celebrated persons did attend this century of extremes. They hurried out as soon as they did their bit, or else they sat back down and snored during the others' presentations.

I, too, have the feeling that I've been here before. Someone has. Here are a row of us, an entire generation between the ages of 25 and 40, though the dates of the nuclear age are to some extent arbitrarily. So much of our formative life has evolved in a globe held hostage by bombs, we have grown an exaggerated sense of the present.

We discovered youth a spontaneous and insatiable state of desire, both the proof and the engine of a transient prosperity; thus our arguments spring up, we have no memory of filling up the public square before, uncurling our banners and daring the police to join us.

We have a problem with novelty, we are bound to repeat the new. Plots in which the walls are torn down with our bare hands, the sense that an immense tide of history will sweep realpolitik in a somersault arc tamed within frames with blurred captions.

History acquires its perfect specificity in succeeding versions.

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