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Playstation Universe

1. The Juggler


The boy was mothered by the soft spin of cloud

over the white tumble of rolling waves,

his eyes at home to dolphins, to flying fish,

to autumn leaves, crows and starlings

flung to the sky like a deck of cards,

fluttering with wild cries, carried merciless

of gravity and earth, rising, wheeling

until the dropping wind returned them safe to rest.


By age five, in impersonation, he became a juggler

a trio of softly stitched leather balls

his constant companions, red, blue and yellow

he danced his way between the caravans, behind

the sleeping horses, the lion’s cages, his sure

tiny fingers flipping, catching, over his head,

under a lifted leg, one handed, two handed,

as simultaneously he watched the birds in flight

and guessed their paths across the sky, from branch

to branch all skittering in random patterns, so unlike

the stars he observed, lying  behind the big tent at night,

their grand procession choreographed by the silence

of an unseen cosmic hand.


Adolescence approached in a whirl of flying objects,

plates on sticks, top hats and painted cups all airborne

to his call—even the magician and the fire eater

were impressed, the fortune teller spun his crystal ball

in awe, prophesized a grand future revealed by his tarot cards.


Yet it was the interlocking wheels of speculation that

captured more his imagination and as his curiosity quickened,

the young man left the circus for a gipsy life, traveling from village to town

trading pots and amulets, potions and powders, fables and poetry

in search of minds as nimble as his own with which to share

his vision of a flying universe.


Somewhere, he told them, he felt sure, all things were connected:

—the dance of zodiacal creatures across  the heavens

—the slow crawl of life across the face of time

—the wings of bees, the creaking of the rocks,

the findings that spoke of particles that split, and split again,

each division parting into yet another, so similar to distant

reaches disclosed by telescopes.


Yes, all was connected, he felt sure, behind it all the logic of

invisible hands guiding the clouds, the birds, the stars, the molecules

in much the same way that his quick fingers had juggled balls

and plates and cups.  Was it not true that men had split the rainbow

into single bands of color, identified the branches of the genetic tree,

wound wires round magnets to light cities and their libraries?


Why not then, by dexterity of eye and mind, devises a glass through which

the Creator could be discerned, flicking the balls of universes through

their paths of intricacy and delight?  He juggled with these concepts

through years of adulthood and approaching age, following each skein

of thought with dimming vision, yet as his glasses frosted, as his years

grew gently towards an unknown destination, his quest eluded him

as into the sleep of night he carried a fading vision:  three balls of

red, blue and yellow, a rising wind shaking the trees, a handful of birds

flung to the sky, fluttering towards some unseen refuge, all fading now

against the backdrop of the stars.


2. Marbles


Here we are

at the edge of the universe

playing marbles with the boss


We polish ours between thumb and forefinger

(it's a misty green and blue cat's eye

flecked with white, a real beauty)

and away it rolls across the sand

It gets scratched a bit on the way

loses some of its shine


Now it’s the boss's turn, he lets loose a comet,

it sneaks between the orbit of a meteorite cloud

and a large cold planet, smashing aside tons

of hurtling rocks on the way

pow, no rocks, all gone to dust


We spit on our planet, rub it to bring back its shine

but our saliva is acid and only further discolors it

so we roll it back to the line in the sand,

take careful aim


In the meantime the boss is making points,

he shoots at a couple of pulsars, pow, they explode,

zaps a planet past a huge black hole

it veers, wobbles, finally slips into the hole, disappears


Our planet's not looking so good, we find a bottle

of planet cleaner, add a few chemicals of our own,

swish it around in a glass dish, remove it,

dry it off with a couple of tons of carbon monoxide.

That should make it beautiful again, but it doesn't,

some of the white haze seems to be disintegrating,

it looks a bit pitted


The boss is having fun with a couple of nebulae,

he spins some supergravity at them and they

change direction, dance like fireflies


Our planet seems somehow to have lost its roundness

we light a couple of huge atomic fires, pass it through

them carefully, just to soften it enough so we can

roll it around, restore its perfect shape, but it doesn't

work, some of the blue has invaded the outlines of the green

and a few large brown discolorations appear

that we hadn't noticed before


Too late we realize that we've got to make our play now,

but our planet's in real bad shape, it's lost its smoothness

altogether, we flick it as best as we can saying a little prayer

under our breath and off it goes, hopping and weaving across

the sand like a dog with only two legs. Soon it disappears

into a cloud of cosmic debris and gets lost in a storm

of misshapen moons, we can't find it in all that whirling stuff


We look at the boss sort of coy, like the novices we are,

hoping he'll give us another cat's eye to play with,

let us have another chance


But he's busy with his own end game. Pow, another nebula, pow,

a whole bunch of them, he's picking them up now, putting them in his

bag which is swelling by the minute. He's like a snooker master,

pocketing the balls expertly, one by one, the red ball, the brown

ball, the pink ball. All gone


Then he sets them all again in a triangle, lines them up,

lets off a thunderous opening shot, smash, a big bang and they all

fly apart, some of them already going into pockets


What about us, we ask. Can we have another chance, try again?

Sorry kids, he says, go back to school, study a bit, get smarter,

learn how to take care of your marbles. Come back when you grow up


Then he lets loose with some really dazzling impossible shots,

bouncing them off wall after wall effortlessly, finally pocketing

the whole lot


See you kids, he says, have a good day in school, then he smiles

that special knowing smile of his, winks at us


You can't beat the boss, he's the best

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© Johnmichael Simon



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