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Michael Collins-I

from News from the Lost Continent



A cub reporter, hot to impress

the jaded newsrooms of his nation,

told them all a story wild as

heroin-powered walks on the moon.

He claimed he’d lived in a place that wandered

the planet, its landscape and people changed

by changing latitudes and climates.

Even their language morphed, and all bets

were off at sunrise. Eyes that shut

European might open Asian. Gender

and age alone were constant–and character,

and the endless incurable tensions that cut

the place into often warring nations:

His stories shook with political perturbations.


He’d made up, he said, not so much

as a lone detail. His proof? A country

he described, its region’s future in its clutch,

which had diplomatic relations with Germany,

Ghana, Singapore, Chile, Sweden—

Places where war for the nonce hadn’t dug its den.

“Check the records,” he told an editor,

“and you’ll see I’m no deceiver.”

The kind man checked but–no corroboration.

“This wandering world of yours sounds more

the thing for a sci fi TV pilot or

film. It’s no newspaper exposition.

Get yourself an agent, son.

Hollywood will want you, with that imagination.”


The young man felt his mind was on

the line–as if he’d eaten, drunk, cried,

and loved in a populous illusion.

A career? He needed a place to hide. . . .

Still, it wouldn’t be a death-defying scoop,

would it, if all God’s children were in the loop?

He set out to prove what he’d said was true.

Shrinks, psychics, physicists, linguists, clue-

less geographers were sought or sought

him out–and all of them were useless.

His tapes held captive voices, from bass

to alto, each with the same unplaceable accent,

speaking now English, now Swahili, now Chinese.

And he: ‘I couldn’t have concocted all of these!’


But where then were these countries?

How on earth did one reach them?

That his tale was pocked with memory lapses

helped him not at all. The Bedlam

of unbelief in which he found himself,

though, became for him a kind of proof.

Something, he thought, so obviously incomplete

shouldn’t claim to be omniscient.

For him the human world was a tent

pitched in the void, history a patched-together

gloss on lost time, the distance to a neighbor

too far to cross. The lost tribes went

–where? That books of religion

explained too little didn’t leave dry data above suspicion.


“Think of all the models, their axioms

wrong, that guided so many advances….”

Till his turn in the rubber room comes,

the cub decides to take his chances:

“I’ll write it all down to the last detail,

till some judge raps a gavel and repeals

my mind, my notebooks and my tapes.

For who hasn’t seen light reshuffle a landscape?

Even Wall Street hacks admit the Invisible

Has spinal chords for fingers. Why not Atlantis–

rising on nations’ borders to kiss

one, or billions, awake? Every wrinkle

in the universe, I think, is full of lore–

lost tribes cast up on recombinant memory’s shore.”