“And if you want to relinquish membership, the bizarre ritual is nothing if not pataphysical: suicide in the presence of an officer of the court who must ascertain that in the Oulipian’s last wishes they were committing suicide to be released from Oulipo.”
—The Penguin Book of Oulipo, Introduction
The unquiet ghosts of a million dead, memorialized through their absence: the food missing from store shelves, the crops rotting in the fields, the houses that go uncleaned, the sick and the dying uncared for. No markers rise in their remembrance, no gold-bordered lists of names etched in tasteful slate, no mourners wailing in the streets, no plays commissioned in their honor, no poems, no songs; the dead lie dead and do not speak.
We figure society in evolving metaphors: now a body, now a factory, now a constellation of thinking machines. A diseased limb gangrenes in prison, a broken cog turns no longer in a nursing home, packets pass no more between instances. Scooter Libby, in prison for betrayal and retribution in support of an unjust war, wrote yearningly of the aspens, strung together at the roots, bound together through the seasons.
The birth rate declines as fortunes narrow; few parents by choice conceive in privation. The last generation, they say and have said, fades away even now. They sing paranoia, we mumble despair — “have no children but those you can support” only ever a stick to beat us with.