“In Case of Unrest” by Ben McClendon

Ben McClendon


You will walk
                      on the sidewalk. You will
place refuse in approved containers
            to be picked up at
                        the appointed time. You
will close doors            behind you,       turn off lights.
            You will sleep—eight hours, precisely—
                        dress within the confines of
acceptable taste and drive the speed limit
            and carry exact change.
You will earn diligently        yet modestly
            to provide for your dependents.       You will
                        purchase consumables
                                    at approved outlets
during posted hours of operation. Your respiration
            and metabolic processes will fall
within established norms. There is no standard
                                    It is for your own good,
you among millions.
                                    You will conform.
                                    You will not
skip meals,
skip steps,
skip lines. You will not skip.
                        You will not waste resources unless directed
or convenient. You will not read
            what you scrawl in the small hours
except to yourself— by yourself—
            in subdued lighting that casts no dramatic shadows.
You will not
                        listen to what rumbles outside,
                                    and if there are
shouts arcing through the grid, the city’s synapses,
you will not hear them,
                                    or you will not notice. 
Pay no attention to what isn’t televised.
            You will not support
what threatens security
            and abundance in the life which
you have been
taught to know
                        so long. You will protect
material wellbeing. You will save your voice
for when it is asked of you.
                        You will not indulge
in difficult colors or savor food or flesh
                        longer than required.
                                    You will not
sit up at night thinking
                                    about asterisms or
the cold or debris from cosmic collisions
spiraling toward the sun
over long centuries. You will wait, always wait, for it all 
to get better. And it will—
            it is. Getting better. 
So much better all the time.

from Rattle #38, Winter 2012
Tribute to Speculative Poetry

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