The Toys to Have
By Andy Verboom
I. The Toys to Have
First off, I hear, a box of blue flame.
Shining and distinguished nursery thing
like a meteor unsuspended.
To learn of the origin of tomorrow
step close to the object,
press close to the beasts in the box.
If there’s one side there, one side there,
we’re picking one that never loses:
this infinite coming of stars,
an exaggerated overnova’s
coterie of Grovers and suchlike
that we pass off on an unsuspecting home world
as policemen. Weakly concerned,
we see the ceiling pitch
blue butchers at the Earth
with generous velocity.
It looks mortal on the surf, but Earth
is an enormous astronomically
exercised Mentional History Museum.
Much like a heap of rain.
Their little arrival at this great disk
swimming on the popular crowd
of memories, moving to solar dance music
—just a slight atmospheric disillusionment.
This is a norchestra: we play
what doesn’t or what does not exist
like somebody else’s dead game.
Trade in the clock, worthless watch
of the heavens, for an afterlife.
One moment, ladies and gentlemen.
Police are trying to rope off the scene,
their plans against us in a mess.
Our next most important possession
after our present natures
sing closed will be the latest bullet.
Metal on its way, we play
the huge cylinder-parent
pointed at disillusionment.
The term is probabilitarism. The war, short
of unusual size, besides the transient
creatures that swarm and multiply
mouths tannic with red, is the norm.
Several explosions occurringing
in ears are nothing unusual. Soldiers keep
itching with time-and-foot disease,
poor undernourished eaters of the hours
of Eastern Standard Bread. We want
to have beef, a tune that levels cattle.
Lastly, nations, belonging
to four main groups:
horses, camels, cattle, and elephants
we arrange and rearrange in various ways
upon our floor. How utterly we playroom.
How far the meridian reaches. But all these
are a flash in the Encyclopedia Britannica.
We’ve the best planet standing in radius
of those ships with envious eyes convinced
astronomical divisions serve as bridges.
While the policemen, it is true, have been
an enormous improvement in our questions,
we must the merciless mercenary sub-species
be. They must go. So, torches high,
look broadly in a blue search.
Articular evening closes on the planet.
II. The Game of the Wonderful Islands
A special statement from Mr. Probably,
Governor of Unknowns: It looks almost likely
will land and build their purposes
here on Earth. This is
how the game goes on.
They will kill and eat the gentlemen
of this remarkable specimen
of life—almost likely unjustified.
A sweep of the white handkerchief tied
to a pole, and we will return
to the verge of extinction.
—Transmission has ended.—
So plausibles sing, civilization musters
certainty to serve in the public interests.
We’re wonderful stuck into holes.
We have the most startling defences
beyond our control: whole special
populations garden machine guns,
emergency workers have a grave attraction,
scouts report all their reported resources
—that is, to look out there,
stand up against a mirror.
Troops are on the beaches,
lie dead in a white foam
against any object which lies heavy.
See the gray snake
out their khaki uniforms.
We feel dismounted, cavalry crawling
microscopelessly in the glare
of the searchlights. No sign of life appears.
We turn out to be lonely horsemen.
The heavens shaped like wet leather,
the sea between the planets—
it is the mirror of the Earth.
The meaning of the extraterrestrial imperialist
intentions in the vicinity? Only evidence
our eyes are easy, ears just holes
in a small conversation dictionary.
One can talk as long as the mouth
of gravity, projecting strongly.
Express our island’s skeletons to the stars.
Piano intense heat in a chamber of profession.
Transmit civilization upon the beam of light.
But our charred bodies crowd back
in a stone-walled country,
explorers in the little nest
defeathered by the melting down.
What finally comes round will be wilderness
beyond all possible recognition.
That black hole, a whirlpooling face.
Eyes like tentacles of light smoke
peeping from the washing pit.
No attempt to be permitted
to our polished parabolic mirror,
their silhouettes just a message that means
what anything means: We are restricted.
Their deadly assault crawling out
of ordinary operations of science
to thrust and subjugate like a screw.
Primo gentlemen have domesticated,
raising up the hopelessly broken soldiers
in an iron spoon. Their chief food’s the tears
or the saliva dripping from the readers.
III. Of the Building of Cities
Lacking enemy machinations, we breed
an allegory of the interior. Engineer
fullness, progressive existence, a city
with the most remarkable electrical gardens,
containing extreme cathedrals and swans
parading through brooks like clockworks.
Engineer heads of children to be mayors,
surmount their bodies
on huge metal legs and at least one arm,
and do not vote on any occasion.
They’re sprang up now. They’re lifting
their metal hands to the sky,
the first machines praying
not unlike the dark coil
in the kitchen waiting
for the orange splash of life.
All we need is one machine rigged
with frantic ocean in its black coil
and noble numbers on its bayonet,
and all the excitement of watching heavy
explosives flying this way will be
ours all over. This was not unknown fate
—couldn’t be—where one who can does not,
where one is crowds like a little giant
voting to vote for the privilege,
where soldiers are fragile things in life
but not in metallic housing.
Even the colossal statue of our meat-god, Pan
—broad, cast in iron, old as no continuity—
seems marked out by destiny to be
the advertisement of the moment.
Out of our faith, we pass into fire.
To war! does not come out very plainly.
There is a hissing sound and, suddenly
recalled to duty, voice opens us
very abusively. Shells, such great shells
spraying the air with a jet of pearly scat.
Control of the city’s half the game.
The other, people. Calling one another— Write!
Invent! Build!—once, we are now in sight
of silence. The stock of our duties
exhausted by terror.
We are trampled to a man.
But the amusement of the game
lies in the worth. A bullet in the hand’s
useless. Gas mask’s urgent negotiation
with these little sacks of air forces
publication, steams in the little windows.
We got the titanic skulls of extinction.
They seem to descend in
like the walls of a museum.
We want to preserve human history, fortified
by additions to the picture-galleries.
The end, the guide-books say,
is still kept open in such a manner
that versatile artists at regular intervals
may lie about it. Above the roofs of Blue End
stand the broadcast towers
on which bears the next generation.
This may be the last push.
The machines are giving out
flowers, the slender curious objects
of treaty. We always win
down on the floor.
IV. Funiculars, Marble Towers, Castles
and War Games, but Very Little of War Games
Island-like, a city. Vaguely
a bird over the waste land.
Strange when islands cease somehow to fly,
descending their steps into the sea.
Strange to walk past buildings
strangely dwarfed by the advancing flood,
stranged switches a weatherly direction,
our windows standing in a silent row,
a long intricate path. There’s no longer
after-party railing that strange powder
off the floor. Strange to lean down,
fighting off the rivers
that used to be the mercury of purpose
but at present, running backwards
and rushing around our knees,
determine we’re eat-able.
Have you seen the capitol?
The animate vastness
of something crouching in a doorway?
Empty storerooms watched by the present?
Malignant energy, soul without the Hereafter?
Sightseers enter the new ark gleaming
in the deep, find dead bodies,
and talk. Have you learned tonight?
Say, perhaps, I want to live
under the terrible lesson.
Say we’re nothing. It is refreshing.
Undemolished but humbled
by some other version of the sea
astride the world for a million years
or something, a great city spires
dim and blue through an April haze.
Strange looking back across the last
small hill of bruised earth
keeping our heads above the pond,
petty surface of our minute sphere
stormed by a tomorrow limbed
like two living creatures back to back,
to that unforgettable time their bodies
were examined in the laboratories,
it was found that they were invented
almost by accident, and wonder
fell from the moment. Fin.
The last great steel armed
with human being is dullness.
These moats they circle around are red
with people pared with a large knife.
Where done, we’re licked.
Strange to see October the Terrible
run down this last chapter of humanity
as if a giant hand
sliced off. Monster of the record,
wide and free, octo-bothering everybody,
pecking out the war from this little seedbed
of the museum. Because we wanted something
to be charred ruins of a bush out of dark
gleaming god, some day, he rose up and became
a million-year Columbus, circled
to the ground, and displayed
that god in his jaws, pecking very carefully
and well, easing the disassembling.
Our doorbell rings and nobody’s there.
There’s only a bird’s circling
in the other living room.
Author’s note: This poem takes its title from the first section of H. G. Wells’s eccentric quasi-children’s book Floor Games, and each section of the poem takes its title from the corresponding section of that book. The poem was composed by way of a probabilistic text resequencing algorithm, which was used to splice the text of Floor Games with Orson Welles’s script for the 1938 radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds.
Andy Verboom is from subrural Nova Scotia. His poems have won Frog Hollow’s Chapbook Contest and Descant’s Winston Collins Prize, and have recently appeared in Arc, CV2, The Lampeter Review, PRISM, The Puritan, and Vallum. His chapbooks are Orthric Sonnets, Full Mondegreens, and Tower.