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by Bob Holman

The taking of flash photos & use of recording devices of any kind, including pens, pencils, eyes & ears, is strictly encouraged.
It’s 1990
& Nelson Mandela is free!

& people are looking at each other
They’re going like “Wha?”
& the other people are looking back
& they’re going like “Duh?”
& finally, after this deep interaction,
You hear the wild cry of:
“Excuse me, could you tell me the time?”

What time is it?
It’s Wake & Shake Time
It’s Death of the Decade Time
It’s Turn of the Century Time
It’s Gyrate the Millennium Time
It’s the End of Time
“At the sound of the tone it will be the End of Time”
It’s 1 PF -- it’s Post Future
It’s 1 PT -- it’s post time
It’s Post Time!

It’s 1990
& Nelson Mandela is free!

History’s on fast forward
Make that double-fast fast forward
That’s where you run past the Future so fast you’re back in the Past
Sure, it’s the End of History
So how come all we can think is, “What comes next?”
One minute you’re rolling in ecstasy because the Berlin Wall is tumbling down,
The next you think, a reunited Germany! Oh God no!
Here come the storm troopers! & I’m Jewish (Well, my father was Jewish, so I’m not Jewish enough for the Jews -- but I’m Jewish enough for the Nazis!)
One minute it’s survival tactics & the next it’s where’s the angle

It’s 1990
& Nelson Mandela is free!

& everybody wants a little glasnost
We know we want it cause we see Frank Zappa smoking cigarettes with Vaclav Havel,
who 6 months ago was in jail, an artist whose work was banned by the government,
now he’s the President of Czechoslovakia
So stop in for free baby burritos at the corner bar
Except suddenly it’s a karaoke sushi bar specializing in piranha sushi,
& everybody here’s a star,
Because you get to stand in front of the massive TV screen showing an MTV-minus one
video clip & sing along with the bouncing ball --
Except the words are all in Japanese and how can you sing “Feelings”
with feeling in Japanese?
Kanjiru! Watashiwa, kanjiru!

It’s 1990
& Nelson Mandela is free!

Communism has collapsed
At last the Russians get to wear the “Happy Face” masks & stand in line for a Beeg Mek
The Azerbaijanis are finally free so they get to beat up on the Armenians
Yugoslavia has decided to go back to indigenous cave tribe groupings
In Italy the Communists have met & decided they’re not Communists
They’re gonna change their name to be more appealing to the Socialists and the Greens
But for the time being they’re calling themselves simply The Thing
The Thing! Personally, I’m planning to vote for -- the Thing
For the time being For the time being
There’s nothing left anymore except for the time being
You live your whole life for the time being
While meanwhile -- there is no meanwhile

It’s 1990
& Nelson Mandela is free!

“Play ethics by ear”
Let me out of here -- but which way is out?
I’m a part of the food chain, isn’t that enough?
At night I snuggle up close to the warm blue glow of images provided for everyone
by a select few
Listen, they’ve packaged a shopping mall so small you can only visit it with
a Video Walkperson, a cellular phone and a Visa card
The world is changing, but we’re not
We’re stuck in a commercial for Life
Trying to figure out who to give the money to
When, surprise! There is no money

It’s 1990
& Nelson Mandela is free!

Senor Yuppie! Phone call for Senor Yuppie!
Pardon me, have to step over these homeless people to close on my Home Equity Loan,
“Our bodies are still tender & not full grown & the prospect of dying frightens us all,
but history calls us & we must go”
But where did they go, the Chinese students on their bicycles riding towards the tanks
at Tiananmen Square,
It can’t happen here because it’s already happened here
AIDS epidemic grabs Life till we don’t even see it, gone like holes in heart,
Surrounded by ghosts, meeting Death in the middle of Life
While lesbians and gay men still have to fight for the right to love
& be sure to send your poetry to the Department of Official Bullshit to get labeled
So it just has to be -- time to get a Coop! --
buy the place you used to rent, and still get to pay the rent
It’s time to be a great parent --
work extra hours to pay for the best childcare while you’re away
My kid is majoring in Nikes
Don’t worry! Don’t be happy! Explode!
The decision of birth from her body is solely & privately that of the woman herself

It’s 1990
& Nelson Mandela is free!

And everything used to be something else
Now it’s 1,000 words a minute, & Times Square is just so much more interesting
We’re hellbent on something, sort of positive in a senile way
I can’t even keep up with my life
It’s a secret between me & my stunt double
Honey, I’m home -- nuke me
Hop to it, ban cigarettes before it’s too late
It’s Earth Day again, if you can find any earth left
Paranoia used to be a psychosis, now it’s a national pastime
Try the new fashion: the bare breast style of no clothes at all, & it’s not cheap, either
& poetry is the newspaper of the future
Except it’s locked out of the media
You know things! Think them!
There’s optimism at the yacht club
The salad bar is open
Excuse me, isn’t it time to mow your head?
I hate you! Thank you very much, have a nice day
They don’t even know what it is, but they’ve already got an option on it
They’re buying into it! Let’s Not Make A Deal!

It’s 1990
& Nelson Mandela is free!

& there’s a guy at the microphone & he’s yelling at me
& he’s not using language that makes any sense from where I come from
It all rhymes & it all starts with capital letters
& it’s all intense italics underlined three times in bold face headlines
& all I can remember is the part about

It’s 1990
& Nelson Mandela is free!

& around the world a sense of possibility
As women slowly ease the old gray dinosaur poobahs from their penile thrones
The universal remote control is being passed into your hands
Zap it! Zap it!
Zap it! Zap it! Zap it!

It’s 1990
& Nelson Mandela is free!

©1990, Bob Holman

Next page > “A Jew in New York,” by Bob Holman...
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