Better With Than Without Us
When feeling blue, I think of the white spats
our forebearers wore while being social among nations
through the aching post-Versailles world. These days,
we, their UN descendants, are mostly eloquent expats
rushing our feet from meeting to mission to conflict
without losing the polite vibe that has seen many more
before and managed to survive among vanities
and the woes of humanity. I once worked
with an electoral advisor who would practice tennis
with local officials as his trick to build political trust.
Not what I was expecting, nor the glory of the book
by Albert Cohen on the mysterious wife behind
a feckless official of the League of Nations, but still
polished enough for my sensitive manners and
my vague intuitions of what acceptable and honorable
look like when everything seems to fail and resist
and the floor-to-ceiling mirrors at Versailles or the
tennis court prevent or at least delay
nations falling into the abyss of mad men and
byzantine conventions. Are the United Nations
what Kant thought of perpetual peace? We, the descendants
of the white spats would not answer. Instead, I’d recall
fondly the time when the entourage of a President
took us to a scenic lake for a windy lunch
where we did not put an end to the civil war
but instead agreed to helm first aid kits for one
million refugees stranded on the opposite shore of the lake,
while we struggled to keep the crickets out of the lavish soup.
The news rumble up and down the hills of Port au Prince. Torpor, disbelief, and the smell of ruble float on this fair-weather January day of 2010. A woman speaks softly to her child trapped under the heavy kitchen wall, the gutted appliances. Her words reel off the sound of a prayer or a prophecy. Crumbled houses, litter, and stunned hands groping what the earth has ripped open. A broken window shutter interrogates the fresh tomatoes from the abandoned burlap bag. Reality is frozen under a cloud of light dust. Bodies looking for bodies. Turning stones into white hair and Haiti into a livid nightmare.
The dead are now roaming the streets noiseless, avoiding the cursed ground. The shipwrecked grappling with the now. The media, the military, the humanitarians will come. They’ll pull out their handkerchiefs: too much sweat on their necks. And the cell reception feels so poor. Their words, their memos, their injunctions will be muffled by a tragedy that is not theirs. A few blocks away from the Western tents, rescuers shut the engines. Silence! The mother has heard her child. The tears roll. The miracle unfurls like a sudden gasp for collective air.
Diego Antoni bio: I’m a poet by night and a UN official by day. I’m currently finishing an MFA at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. I’m Mexican and live in New York City with my husband.