Spasm 1900


Daniel Agin

Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 113 in 2007.

Nothing to be seen
Nothing to be heard
Nothing to be touched
He sits in the musty room in the shadows
Books shaking whenever the El passes
Piles of old magazines
Newspapers, photographs, postcards, assorted debris
Agglomerated and stacked in odd places
Multiple towers of Babel
Blisters of dead paint on the walls
Frosted glass in the single window
Daylight outside but nothing visible
A smell of rotting fruit seeping under the door
An insidious gas
In the year 1900 millions are reported to be starving in India
A groaning mass of wriggling bodies
The river Ganges brown and bubbling
The boy Apu wandering naked in an alley in Benares
Where is Gunga Din?
Of whom are you speaking, my dear?
Regarded with such evil forebodings
She stands facing right
Her right side presented
Her right arm folded
Her right hand on her hip
Only her left hand can be seen
The hand bent
The fingers touching the lower part of her left shoulder
Her face is turned so that all of it is visible
Dark hair, a rose pinned in her hair at each temple
Lips heavily rouged, dark eyes looking unwavering
The right side of her face in a green shadow
A bit of pink on the upper slope of the right cheekbone
Below the oval face an expanse of cream-colored skin
A gown with a low neckline, white shoulders exposed
A mass of ruffles on the upper arm and over the bosom
On her left side a dangling shawl, blue-grey in color
Hanging past her knees
On her right side the red flounces of the gown
Scattered green and blue and mauve patches
She moves her right arm
She slowly turns
She says something in Spanish
The music starts
Many a brave soul did it send hurrying down
Many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures
British trade unions create the Labour Party
White sleeves raised, ruddy faces, hands clenched
We are determined to change the course
All the mouths are open
He passes his younger days perpetually occupied
A variety of circumstances prevent his marrying early
Nor is it until the decline of life that he becomes a husband
And the father of a family
He came down furious from the summits
With his bow and his quiver on his shoulder
And the arrows rattled on his back with the rage
He sat himself down away from the ships
With a face as dark as night
As she sails into the room like a great ship gliding on the sea
Shouting, the voices hoarse, a beer mug raised in salute
Too much dust here
One hovers on the edge of a sneeze
I cannot breathe this morning
He could not bear to live in poverty and oblivion
A plain man cannot stand against the anger of a king
Waves of strikes spread through Europe
I suppose it was to be expected
The dead man was an absolute stranger to everyone
A query at the railroad station
No one had seen him alight from a train
Mayor of New York breaks ground for construction of first subway
Through a tunnel linking Manhattan and Brooklyn
Starched white collars and a gathering of pick-axes
All the open mouths
He then took me into his laboratory
And explained to me the uses of his various machines
His eyes flashed fire as he scowled
It makes it a little awkward for you, doesn't it?
Hawaii is officially a territory of the United States
Oahu green, then acres and acres of pineapples
Ships of fruit companies in the harbors
Let us hope she will not turn out so badly
The sleuths turned the clothes inside out
Then bit their lips in frustration
The tailor's label had been ripped out of the jacket
The laundry mark had been torn off the shirt and underwear
Fire reduces the Canadian city of Ottawa to ashes in twelve hours
Blocks of smoldering wood, a gray haze in the eyes
I always do you justice
Indeed, a remarkable woman!
World exposition opens in Paris
Yellow gleam of tubas and trumpets
Dark eyed girls with sweat glistening on their upper lips
He could not imagine the robber in the kitchen
Hearing a shot in the dark
Calmly assuming it had been fired by his partner
The sleeping husband could have awakened
And fired at the intruder
The natural impulse of the man in the kitchen
That of self-preservation
Eugene V. Debs announces he will run for president
Mouths opening and closing, opening and closing
It's a magnificent place, and certainly the grounds are ravishing
Boxer rebellion breaks out in China
I shall go in the morning
See what she means to do in the matter
British take over Orange Free State in South Africa
Jeffries defeats Corbett
The two men half naked, arms and fists raised, at the ready
Here you are again! Do you want to see Papa?
Stephen Crane dies at twenty-eight of tuberculosis
I'm waiting for you, you know
You haven't finished your work yet
General Arthur MacArthur offers Filipinos amnesty
Of course I did. It was delicious!
Germany reported to be building a powerful navy
Hundreds die as three steamships burn in Hoboken
What must be, must be
But it's really dreadful to think of it all
King Humbert I of Italy is assassinated by an anarchist
Your reputation would suffer, I assure you!
Zeppelin airship makes first flight
Order the carriage at half past three
Australian colonies form confederation
We may as well leave our cards together
Allies enter Peking to free legations
But she's a mere peasant! Entirely uneducated
A mere, common creature
Nietzche dies after eleven years of madness
It's not finished
Where is the upper part of it and the sleeves?
William Jennings Bryan accepts presidential nomination
I'm sorry to have called you wicked
United States population reaches 76 million
One can't praise such a voice as that!
McKinley and Roosevelt win election
I believe you would do it if I asked you
Oscar Wilde dies in poverty in Paris at the age of forty-six
I think a great many people will be jealous of her
Sarah Bernhardt arrives in America
I believe the world is a cruel place after all
The Boer War drags on.