"Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life" – Oscar Wilde
It is 2120, and we have all died.
We have strayed so far from the gifts of God that we have been reduced to nothing but gas and dust. Although not physically, it is as if our souls were launched into the depths of space, leaving but hollow shells of people behind. The concrete void in which we float only knows warmth in the graze of hands, gambling and transacting, and arms wide open at the feeding end of machines, readily available to devour temporary happiness in its plastic form. The huge nothing we once feared unknowingly manifested into reality, shaping us into the all-singing, all-dancing products of our own stuff.
Greed had tempted us. Greed had prevailed.
Only one spectator was present on Judgement day, who laid trembling at the mercy of Death’s bending sickle. She was the last attempt of a poet and an unsuccessful one at that. Abandoning the craft so carelessly, like a nudge to an untethered boat. Surrounding her deathbed spread her worth within society, accumulated through her years as an avid consumer. But not even the transient joy emitted from such things could equate to the boundless garden of her imagination. She repressed it for so long, having convinced herself she could do without it. Her garbage loomed over her, providing a constant reminder of her yield into temptation. Here, she suffered, in the face of her neglected work, in the centre of her rubbish, failing to deafen the brutal knell of regret.
How useless she felt. Barely able to muster the courage to lull herself through the mouth of death. The weight of her abandonment clasping her throat tighter with every breath. How selfish she felt. To be alive enough to have strength to die. Yet to be too weak, leaving not even a syllable to succeed her.
Sprawled before her were the deserts of vast eternity, but the emptiness lingered no sense of bewilderment. Even in mortality, emptiness had been something she became accustomed to. This sense of familiarity within her solace slowly stippled in lost memories. Nostalgia had birthed her inescapably back into her illustrious, ignorant youth.
In a simpler, more forgiving time, her pleasure depended only on ink across paper. Though she may not have realised, the addictive reliance between art and human life was the single most extraordinary romance she would ever experience. The adoration and pride she had in her art were not unrequited. Put simply, she and her art were each other’s reason for life. They inspired each other, imitating each other.
She had defined poetry quite loosely, confining it not to just stanzas and rhyme, rather in anywhere people opened their hearts in earnest: through actions and feelings, in the banal and mundane.
And, as such, poetry was everywhere.
She found it in passing strangers especially, and the small infinities created within a single glance. The impermanence, the romantic ambiguity of it all. The concept of all life’s paths and intersections leading to a single moment. Poetry had once defined all, spanning out across purity and evil, from the heated passion of conception to the bargaining with God, at the iron gates of life.
However, as the gears of capital demand whirred faster and harder, such glances she would share became isolated between her and the pavement. Skyscrapers protruded through the atmosphere’s gas membrane; pollution obstructed her view, once so clear. The influx of material goods, cruel and sudden, defied physicality, marking one’s entire life’s philosophy. And without warning, people rejected poetry.
Poetry could not be held. Poetry could not be bartered. Poetry could not be flaunted.
What was the value in it?
She found herself knowing the price of everything, but the value of nothing – a product of society. Expression was stunted, she would think twice before wasting black ink and paper, which was deemed as unthinkable. To tarnish something so decorative was worth every ounce of mockery. It was a symbol of poverty, which attacked her desires, like the burning smell of acid after it rained. As an attempt to preserve her clandestine pleasure, she convinced herself that she would feel the embrace of carpe diem with every item hoarded. As a sign of conformity, she would die every time her possessions broke, and resurrect when she gained more. But, although she would never admit it, she perplexingly felt nothing. Nothing ever happened. Maybe something was wrong with her, lovesick with an old passion.
Factories were built. Temperatures had risen. Hands were let go of.
The totality of our beings mattered not in how we characterised ourselves, and not even who we associated with. Only in what we had, were we truly ‘comfortable’ within society. Reputation relied so heavily on objects. Even through heatwaves, men would suffocate under layers of clothing to prove their worth so desperately. A grin of bitterness plastering their sweaty, smug faces, standing face to face with the devil, as their clothes wore them.
The rapid reconstruction of the landscape she knew so well, once lush and pastoral, was a lasting reminder of her insignificance, and of how she was her possessions’ subordinate. Skylines existed for intimidation, presenting but a distorted shadow of their old beauty, bulging out of the horizon like the jaws of hell. The smog dispersed vaster than empires, beating the sun into the colour of bruises and cuts. Spilling through day and night, like oil contaminating a sea. The electrical frenzy of artificial light blinked as an alarm of memento mori, through crumbling skylines and the swing of tower cranes. Creating a glistening effect once evoked by stained glass. Such a view would have been something she would have taken note of, but she would continue to ignore the blackened scenery, focusing on the need to fill empty hands.
Before her death, she was met with the unequivocal reality of things not meaning as much as they used to. The feeling? It is not in these objects, it never was. Where did the poetry go?
Then, like the first critical hit of a tsunami, the extent of her complicity cursed any possibility of an easy death. In her abdication of true pleasure and true beauty, she singlehandedly rejected any hope for humanity, having realised the inability to string goods along with you into death. Could she have possibly atoned for her mistakes, orignore society’s demands and make paper meet pen once more, or at least consume whatever poetry buried under the city’s ash and rubble; we may never know.
Every cough of brown clots into her shivering, pale hands silenced any availability of a future where art - where hope is restored. Thanks to her and her incomprehensible incompetence, lives cannot be lived, lessons cannot be learnt, emotions cannot be articulated.
What a shame it was. To be baptised with a new surge, to right her wrongs, on her deathbed. To realise so late that, where there is no one to consume art, there is no art. Where there is no art, there is no life. She is Time’s fool. The mutual inclusivity of both poetry and humanity, or lack thereof, had regurgitated any last drop of compassion within us, spitting out machinery on the other side - devoid of feeling and experience. It was sad that this was her lasting impression of life. She could not deny the concept of this being entirely her fault.
It was sad, but it was her truth.
It was a truth she could never accept, nor gain the closure of. In her final moments, left coughing and hacking, there was a heat which circulated, bouncing off the walls in her lungs and throat. There were moments in her death which illustrated something so warm and inviting. Perceiving her passing as, less of a war, rather a free ride. Smirking in Death’s control, with her head lolling idly on the passenger’s seat. Each glimmer of light which seeped through the towers of her possessions re-enacted the mellow in and outs of overhead streetlamps, whose light blared through the intense fog. Hypnotising her into unconsciousness, kissing her fluttering eyelids. It felt less like death, more like a half-remembered dream.
When she died, we all died with her. Whether she noticed it or not, Poetry had stayed when she left. Poetry’s maternal hand caressed the apologetic tresses of her thin hair. With her hope and mortality followed the entirety of the craft.
It left her, in her solitude and her pain. It left in death, through dry lips, in her last struggle for air. It left. Having borne out to the edge of doom.
Hi, this was a prompt that i was given for this creative writing competition. Through it isn't that obvious, I used pastiche throughout (not plagiarism) referencing classic poems to parallel the concept of poetry staying, being embedded within her. Please give me any feedback you can, I'd really appreciate it :)