The Next Siren Wail

Jason Eisner, “Bad Mouth” (2017), ink and latex on paper, 18 x 24 inches

Even though I should have my head between my knees, looking at my shoes, my gaze is turned upward. I am under a desk looking at a collection of dried chewing gum. Now and again, I look at my classmate who is crying a little. It is an elementary school emergency drill. A hollow siren cued us to assume this crouched position. We are on the floor and we are waiting for instructions and we are afraid. We are preparing to survive a nuclear blast.

When we return to our seats, someone asks “How would we get home from here?”

For several days, I wondered who would want to break the world, and at night, I prayed especially hard for the safety of my family. By the next week, play and routine replaced my fears until the next siren wail.

We stopped doing these drills as the old empires crumbled under their own weight. No one was nostalgic for them and the memory faded along with the apocalyptic threat.

But a faded memory leaves behind the ghost of its living form, like a daguerreotype. And like all ghosts these memories linger, with the power to haunt us. Echoes of the elementary school siren reverberate through time. I hear them in today’s news.

The old empires with their old debts and ancient troubles have new leaders. Their language is a warning siren. It grows, louder drowning our simple questions, Who would break the world? How do we get home from here?

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