We are a generation of orphans.
We were born where history ended, the last stop of a phantom train—a destination requested by no one. Our parents wandered blindly in the weeds and stood in line to feed money into busted vending machines. And they paid a quarter to gaze at the spectacle of Chernobyl in the East—but this wasteland was a spiritual Chernobyl, from which no one was permitted to evacuate.
And in this psychic Chernobyl, this cultural White Sands, a two-headed serpent was born.
My brain and skin are permanently scarred from the radioactive heat, the deadly poison which seeped into flesh and groundwater. I was born in the shadow of the poison sun. I was born in hell, like you, but like you, I survived.
We grew up in the orphanage of dreams. Pornography was our mother, and our father the brooding dead.
Language was a joke—only science fiction and sick irony made sense. Only hate made sense, and we hated everything. Pushed down, tormented, and flunked; or, the next day, grade A praise and paychecks—in the end, it’s all the fucking same, isn’t it? Who gives a fuck if they give us an A or an F—I vomit on all grades. Their echelons are filth. And with this filth of echelons they baptized us and cast us out into the cold. We were kicked in the ass, and told “Good luck!” (With a face like this, I’ll need it.)
Now I’m free—to do what? Accumulate, and slave away for accumulation’s sake? Drink the poison water of global value chains, and pray?
Well you see, we’ve grown tired of your ridiculous game. We want to fuck, and eat, and drink, and read. And if you can’t give that to us, then your little game will have to end. We’ll end it on the shore of hurricanes and in the frontier of raging fires. We’ll end it in computer viruses and strike waves and financial aneurysms.
I have pulled the knife from my chest like Arthur Pendragon and my body of stone has melted into richness and blood. Now distant rains gather to nourish my wound.
Our inheritance is vast and we are crippled by its weight. Vast histories, vast grudges, vast curses, vast phantoms, vast graves, vast genealogies, vast cities, vast libraries, vast mythologies, vast roads, vast countries, vast lands, vast skies, vast oceans. And the vastness terrifies us because we’re small, and so we disavowed it and hid from it. But the time has come to walk in the ruins. The time has come to dress the ground and sow the earth between the headstones and the rotted barn.
Orphans see beyond the black gate of hopeless years. No tradition, no community, no duty beside the most cynical and base injunction: make money. If we reject this, what is there? Nothing, aside from ourselves.
They told us to follow our dreams, to follow them where? There is only one dream that leads away from this place, only one star—the red star that burns in the darkness. And this red star is ours to name.
A two-headed serpent was born at the end of history. The day has come for one head to devour the other.
The joke of social Darwinism is that it revenges itself on its own moronic bourgeois propagators. If you tell us “this is the state of nature—now go, and survive!” then that’s precisely what we’ll do.
We have one prerogative: survive, we have to survive. If our generation survived, then everyone can. And the future will survive.
Reuben Dendinger is a poet and writer currently employed as a lecturer in English at the University of Maine in Orono, where they live with their wife and two cats. This past year, they published their first chapbook of poems titled Hexes. They can be found on Instagram at @blackflowerahegao.