The Last Existentialist

The Last Existentialist Eats

eggs for breakfast,
scones with dairy butter,
sausages as succulent
and rich as the tender meat
of his life is barren.

At the market he is courteous
to a fault until the nausea
claims him once again,
until his being dissolves
to nothingness and he
windmills down the aisles,
a cascade of powdered soups
and quilted crackers
trailing in his wake.

"Why," he asks the butcher,
the baker, the man who mists
the vegetables with a spray
he suspects may contain
something more than water.

As the rest of "humanity"
rushes or jogs past him,
evolving not to rhinos
but assorted species
on the insect phylum
--arachnids, fireflies,
killer bees, worker ants--
the last existentialist
continues to stare
unblinkingly into the abyss.

The stars blink back
like burning spurs,
like beacons in the night,
like the stones he once took
for diamonds in a tiara
perched atop the beehive
bouffant of an untouchable
raven-haired prom queen.

The stars blink on
like massive spheres
of flaming incandescent gas,
all their symbolic richness
wrenched metaphorically
from the belly of man.

The Last Existentialist Needs

no introduction to the hell
of life in the twenty-first century,
no exegesis to everyday perdition
in an era when souls are sequestered

and esthetic norms are gross or bland;
he has seen the senseless carnage
and the holocasters at their game,
the grasping maw of mass sentiment

with its displaced righteousness,
its transient whims and stylish rage.
The last existentialist needs
no primer for the public purgatory

of pretense in an era when the surface
of things is the sum of their fame,
no prologomenon to a purblind morality
based on the satisfaction of needs

as ceaseless and rapacious as rust,
as barren as thermonuclear sand;
he reveals his thoughts to no one,
he dons a shroud of garish taste

and takes his place upon the stage.
The last existentialist needs
no outline for the future heaven
he imagines in wistful or speculative

reveries that invest him despite
his desire to keep them at bay,
no prospectus for his dreams
of a kingdom wrought from reason

where he might step into the light
of day with others of his strain,
arms linked in the tamed humanity
of some glorious and gilded age.

When the Last Existentialist

tires of sensitivity,
of always thinking first,
he resorts to elixirs
illicit and true to alter
or obliterate his reason,
to become less of a mind
and something more of a man,
a heady beast, if you will,
to descend into a maelstrom
of perception and savor
the moment as a dream:
crackling with color,
lucent with sound.

Before the dream expires
and the morning after rails,
he will untomb sensuality
from an airtight cage,
an automated surrogate
tailored to his tastes,
with whom he can engage
in a safe aseptic coupling
of always-ready passion
and scrupulous finesse
that pales any chance
encounter of the flesh.

Yet when his self returns
in its unrelenting way,
his consciousness intact,
his senses back in rein,
and the thing abed beside him
arises from a specious sleep
--porcelain skin untouched,
her eyes a fervent shade--
he envies this creation
and such surety of purpose,
the flight in its desire,
the will of its caress.

If The Last Existentialist

could afford to time trip
he would travel back
to the salad years
of the long dead century
to gorge himself on greenery,
he would dare to explore
the spirit of an age
when thought fell like rain
and the days past tomorrow
were ripe with possibility.

As a ghostly chrononaut
he would dip and hover
at princely Sartre' shoulder
as the master's moving pen
journeyed from nothingness
to being and back again.

Ticketless, he would attend
the ill-attended premier
of La Cantatrice Chauve,
and with a century's hindsight
smile in knowing condescension
as the cautious critics tugged
upon their pointy beards
and scratched their heads.

He would accelerate with Camus
in his fiery and weightless
plunge to famous oblivion,
and shed more than a solo tear
for genius extinguished
long before its time.

He might even manifest
himself as a hallucinatory icon
in a renegade Harvard guru's
altered consciousness,
or inhabit a white room
and perch upon a white piano
where imagination reigned.

And if he could find a way,
he would immerse himself
for an unnoticed moment
in the stream of history
to commit the inimitable act
that could send it runneling
down a different hill
to a different sea,
warm and pelagic,
blue as an ancient sky,
green as imagination.

He would repack
the baggage of the past
and boot it down
a different set of stairs
to a different landing,
open to the changing clouds
and the spacious air,
bare to the falling rain.

Appeared in Amazing Stories