Look through my surface: I am as tall as a person,
and I hold multitudes: bodies by the thousand.
A shot, and Martin Luther King lies dead.
More gunfire and the Tet Offensive begins,
President Johnson gives up and sinks into history.
In California, Nixon begins to smile.
Another gunshot and Robert Kennedy
lies bleeding from the skull. What is America
doing to itself?
Fourteen colours tell us
various ways to live, and perhaps to die:
the outer layer a glowing heat shield
flaming through the blue sky;
below, the green water where a boy falls
and drowns, escaping from the labyrinth
where the Athenian architect, his wise father,
toiled and built — wise, but not wise enough:
having escaped from beneath the earth
they climb through air and water
to meet the fire in the sky. It’s 1968:
Yuri Gagarin dies, and Tallulah Bankhead,
Neal Cassady, Weegee and Yvor Winters.
Marcel Duchamp gone, leaving behind
his European arabesque of lies.
In March our American friends and allies
incinerate three hundred people
in the village of My Lai. In August
the Russian tanks grind over the cobbles
to enslave Czechoslovakia for the third time
in thirty years. Now Apollo
rises to meet the moon. Welcome to the future.
John Tranter (NSW) has published several collections of verse including the prize-winning Urban Myths: 210 Poems: New and Selected.
He is the co-editor of the Penguin Book of Modern Australian Poetry and the editor of the free Internet magazine Jacket.
Daedalus Number 7, 1968 was written by John Tranter in response to Col Jordan’s Daedalus Series 7 1968 in the Newcastle Region Art Gallery collection.