There were days I'd descend the staircase into the vault sunny days,
Rose Bowl and palm tree days swapping Pasadena's smog and glare
for the damp air-conditioned chill, and not emerge until after dark
to find the world changed in ways I would have never expected.
Assassinations, grim disasters, traffic accidents all took place above me
while I hunched in front of my video display terminal,
mapping satellite orbits and rendering coastlines, islands, and lakes.

Two of my friends entered into a suicide pact
with a woman who thought she was Jesus Christ.
She wore soft cashmere sweaters over her enormous breasts
and convinced them to follow her into oblivion.
That look in their eyes came so suddenly.

I couldn't even talk to her; her perfume was like a slap.

John Lennon was gunned down on the sidewalk
in front of his New York co-op. I wouldn't have known,
except one of the guards was reading the Herald Examiner
and the headlines were right in my face when I passed by his desk
long after night had fallen.

Even changes in the weather surprised me:
sun traded for pounding, steady rain;
a brilliant morning exchanged for a gloomy fogged-in evening.
Changes most people see, gathering clouds, Santa Anas
picking up in the afternoon, were abrupt, startling.

It made me crazy, that basement.


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