“Officer, I Saw the Whole Thing” by Eric Paul Shaffer

Eric Paul Shaffer


a rant for Lawrence and Albert and Lew

Officer, I saw the whole thing. I was standing there minding my own business, when the sky cracked open like a blue Easter egg, and suddenly, I saw it all
was made of atoms and molecules and elements bouncing around like the tiniest, infinitesimal, electron-microscopic drunks in the universe. Yes!

Officer, I saw the whole thing. I saw how every one of the six billion plus of us is just another one, not a carbon or a clone or a happy homogenized double half
of Mom and Dad, not another daughter or son in a long, boring line descending—and I do mean descending—from Adam and Eve.

No, Officer, I saw the whole thing. I saw every one of us as a miracle, each yet another one lovers groaning or giggling in the dark somewhere thought
they wanted, but nobody anywhere could have wanted or guessed or anticipated. Everybody is somebody nobody ever expected.

Officer, I saw the whole thing. Humans are just one little part of a big, blue watery world we call Earth—yes, 76% water, and we call it Earth!—and we’re the only ones
who snarl at every other living creature, “Hey, move over! You were here first, but we can think! We’re rational, you dumb animal! You can’t think! You don’t even count!”

Officer, I saw the whole thing. All the stars are suns, and light is a dream of darkness that touches nothing and goes nowhere, no matter how fast it travels through
icy emptiness, and I saw all of us made mostly of emptiness, more space than time, no matter how many watches I wear.

Officer, I saw the whole thing. I was standing on the corner of Busy and Pointless, and I was waiting for the light to change, when, as I said before, the sky split
like ovum cracked by a single sperm banging his head on the wall, and suddenly, there was everything hanging out for anyone to see.

And, Officer, I saw the whole thing. There were no fat doves to mistake for angels, and no white light, and no heavenly vox humana, and no streets paved
with solid gold, and no pearly gates, and no tunnel full of loco-motives charging me with one blind and blinding eye. No, there was nothing there at all.

Officer, I saw the whole thing, and yes, nothing was there! The universe as we know it is not known at all. It’s a candy shell of red or green or brown or darker brown
or yellow or even blue—What’s that missing color? Where’s the new hue?—with nothing inside but our broken, little hope that something might be in there.

Officer, I saw the whole thing. When a guy turned to me and said, “Everything happens for a reason,” I nearly screamed. My ears rang like school bells,
like church bells, like cow bells, like bicycle bells, like alarm bells, like somebody somewhere was talking stink about me.

Officer, I saw the whole thing right then, and I said “No!” to that fool and to the orange hand holding me back and the ceaseless flow of traffic and the starry sun
and the moony moon and the weeping stars and the grand cast of emptiness in all directions. “No,” I said, “everything does not happen for a reason!”

Officer, I saw the whole thing—I mean everything at once!—and I yelled, “No, everything happens because it can, and it does, and you just can’t stand it, can you?
Hell, you certainly can’t understand it! Nobody can. Reasons are for rear-view mirrors, and ‘Objects in mirror are SMALLER than they appear!’ A reason? Screw that!”

Officer, I saw the whole thing, and I shouted, “Keep your eyes on the road, you fool, and watch where the hell you’re going!” The universe is just an accident
waiting to happen. Wait! Waiting? No, it’s happening right now—as constant as the speed of light times arbitrary squared.

Officer, I saw the whole thing, and if light travels 186,282 miles a second, I see at the same speed, and I see every last person is a spectacular cloud of molecules
like a rainbow nebula, like BB’s in a box, and it’s a wonder every wonderful one of us doesn’t flash with lightning, boom with thunder, and burst with rain.

Officer, I saw the whole thing, and you were there, and I was there, and she was there, and he was there, and they were there, and everyone was there, and we were
all there, and we were all actually a real “we,” yet not one of us knew what anyone keeping an eye on the whole thing could easily see.

Officer, I saw the whole thing. Life is a live-music beer blast we all crashed wearing only our birthday suits. Life is a twenty-billion-year pile-up in thick fog
and darkness on a bridge over troubled nada—and not a tow-truck in sight. Life is only what we imagine, and why is that not enough?

Officer, I saw the whole thing. For one moment, the thing was whole, and then, it was gone. The concrete was beneath my feet, my head was still at the bottom
of the sky, and the exhaust was hot in my face. Horns were blaring, the sun was shining, and the rest of my life hung before me in the shape of my own breath.

Officer, I saw the whole thing, and it’s all over. Nothing to see here, folks; it’s all over now. Go about your business, people. Move along, move along now. Yes,
move along now because all I can see now is now. I came, I saw, I communicated. Yes, everything’s all over, and here I am again, and I’m here to say:

Officer, I saw the whole thing, and it was one sweet, intimate glance at the ultimate. Now, I’m back, and I’m glad I’m back, and I’m going straight to my house.
I’ll throw the front door open wide, walk in, and say, “Hello, sweetheart. Yes, it’s me. I’m home. Happy Valentine’s Day. I love you. Let me tell you about my day.”

from Rattle #24, Winter 2005


Eric Paul Shaffer: “‘Officer’ is the centerpiece of Lahaina Noon, poems written during my seven years on Maui. Living on a volcano two thousand miles from everywhere else demands an illusionless examination of how large and how small our world actually is. The island proves an appropriate place to employ the insights of second-millennium physics, chemistry, astronomy, and ecology in forging a more accurate perspective on our lives and the planet in the third millennium.”