POETRY
Fadeout/Totenfugue
Nate Maxson

I don’t think most people born last century remember, fully
The exact fadeout of their childhoods
It was typically a vaporous slide towards whatever came after (think of the ending of the movie “The Graduate” with Benjamin Braddock and Elaine Robinson on the bus, married and not knowing what to do next, I think it was a lot like that)
This is a difference between the people of the 20th century and those who will only know the 21st
And even I, having just seen the end of it, find it difficult to comprehend the raw newness of today’s teenagers: tomorrow’s future indifferent
But I was born in 1989, I’m from the borderlands so I’ll try

The year I wore my open-toe sandals into the winter
Was the same year the Columbine shooting happened
My elementary school’s response was to begin the long process of teaching us that we were to blame for it
We did this
And we remember
It’s like the Passover story: each micro-generation of this century marks their doorways with lamb’s blood
A sacrifice to some winged, futuristic machinery
A few years later 9/11 happened
More blood on the door
May the spirit spare us this year

Was it always this way?
I mean, someone who was 50 years old in 1950 had seen the end of the world twice over
But what brief optimism to have been 60 in 1960
Maybe the future is hungry
Maybe
Now we know, things have a way of just continuing onwards

This is the dance, what Paul Celan called Der Totenfugue
Maybe my own nebulous tribe comprehends skeletal histrionics better than most, after all we have laid claim to a certain word in Greek that means “Burnt Offering”, make of that what you will
I won’t say it, I won’t
But do you remember that scene from Fantasia with the boney figures dancing around the hellmouth?
Well I don’t mean to alarm you but is it really warm in here or is it just me?
Ahem,
Flippancy towards horror is usually my survival mechanism but each flagellation in the death waltz simply becomes a new layer of scar tissue: the first cut never fully heals (this is what we may have now instead of young love ah but there I go being cynical again)

Please,

A man massacres 50 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando
All they wanted to do was dance
Not that dance though
More blood on the door to keep the future at bay
If I forget thee Jerusalem/ etcetera, etcetera
Things we tell ourselves
When the angel passes over
This is someone younger than I am’s moment of passing over the threshold
Remember this
Whoever and whenever you are
The way they train you to hide under the desks in case of tornados, earthquakes
I do not like that word that means “Burnt Offering” because it implies an act of god
Please,
Hold onto the borderlands, they will keep you safe
Remember your few moments before the fadeout, the swell of music when youth was like a film
The first great wound means you’re still human, again this is the platitude we used to level against young love but it’s a new world out there
Hang onto these fragments I have shored against my ruin the next time it happens and you watch the news and shrug the process away, I remember
The way my long toes gathered frost the morning before


Nate Maxson is a writer and performance artist. He is the author of several collections of poetry including 'The Whisper Gallery' and 'The Torture Report'. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.