The past is never dead. It’s not even past. –William Faulkner
Do they still have battles of the bands,
like in nineteen sixty-three,
November 22, specifically,
when the proto-conspiracy theorist
at the high school cafeteria table said
Russian missiles must be heading for us?
Or in the late sixties, in a battle
of musical notes, when the earnest
choir director at the earnest college
in the northwest conducted Fallout,
an earnestly atonal choral composition,
its libretto a fallout shelter manual,
with relentlessly unsingable lines like
lock up your doors and windows
(rest, two, three, four) tightly?
If they still have battles of the bands,
it’s doubtful that the San Diego grunge-
metal band Hand of Gavrilo would beat
Scottish alt-rock band Franz Ferdinand
in a cage match of any kind, especially
recalling Gavrilo Princep’s assassination
of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife
on the streets of Sarajevo, a heroic action,
to the Serbs) memorialized for eighty years
by bronze footprints, a comic ironist’s nightmare.
A month later Austria-Hungary declared war
on Serbia, signaling the start of what
was called the ‘Great’ War, renamed ‘One’
just twenty years later when another
war was born, christened ‘Two’.
Second verse, same as the first,
a little bit longer and a whole lot worse.
Might it be wise to stop perseverating
on dirty bombs, media-smart ISIS thugs,
and a whack North Korean dictator
playing with nukes? A case can be made
that while the low-rent conspiracy
that Princip joined was the spark
for the war, the kindling was decades
of family feuds by some,
and sleepwalking by all...
Archduke and wife were barely cold
when moves started being made
by the sleepwalkers still rubbing sleep-
matter out of their eyes (and brains),
and, without breaking a sweat,
found themselves in the midst
of a war, a 'world' war,
complete with songs:
Oh, oh, oh it’s a lovely war,
who wouldn’t be a soldier, eh?
Who knows what we’ll be singing
in a few years, but right now, it's
Sleepwalk with me, baby.
By Kim Peter Kovac
Picture by Umberto Boccioni (1882–1916) The City Rises