Hot Desk Extract: 2042
As part of the Wheeler Centre’s Hot Desk Fellowship programme, Amanda Anastasi worked on a full book of poetry, 2042 – an entirely futuristic, research-based collection. Envisaging a future year in time, the poems span the socio-political, the personal, and the domestic events and observations impacting everyday Melbourne life.
This excerpt includes several poems from the book.
After the Flood
He has perished and woken many times to begin
elsewhere, viewing former versions of himself
with a wry shiver. Here, the same flux of startling
ends and changeovers and renewed unknowing.
He is attuned to early departures: the leaving
of a father and an ever-retiring mother, packed
cupboards crying of the unwillingness to let go,
the vacant smell of a post-marriage apartment.
It is not the bareness of post-life, but the daily disregard / of the still breathing, that bolts him upright in his sleep.
They come, people at the entry point of shock.
He had been expecting them, the flood alerts
on his phone prophesising another busy season.
They enter before thinking to thumb a message.
The widow lacks a single skin crease when she cries,
her face a sleek bottle pumping grief in neat bursts;
the phoneless entry and single earring, the only other
sign of her inner chaos. He has the script memorised:
words of general comfort that light a mild recognition
in the eye and the well-timed weaving in of questions
about compartment size and style, music choice,
and funeral service programming. Less reference
to the afterlife these days. Presumption is anathema,
along with any notion contrary to self-determination.
Wait for the mention of god first, without cynicism,
then nod as though you understand something.
Increasingly, little is hidden from loved ones. Less
and less, the apparition-hit faces of a mother or lover
after the unlocking of a beloved’s phone or the sight
of a grief-stricken stranger at the funeral. This living
and uttering of a life without omission has its cons –
the more known the dead, the more the stopping stings.
Curated modes of grief expression are the preference
for many: a post detailing the exact minute of passing,
a live feed of the sad informing, lavish moving image
memorials. Yet, the oddest outbursts from mourners
on trains have been reported. What haunts him are
the flawless faces that sit neatly around stunned eyes.
There is something about the reduction of bodies
from limbs to ash that almost reassures; of the neat
cataloguing of past lives, boxed one above the other;
a tower of local occupations and cedings swiped into.
There is little nostalgia for rotting flower water and angels
atop marble pitched in dirt. Ends are marked quicker
and cleaner these days and many still can’t abide replication
or bot replacement. The grieving stand before the remnants
with an unfading reverence – some dutiful, some struck
with rapid sobriety, pausing before the last cruel riddle.
It is not the bareness of post-life, but the daily disregard
of the still breathing, that bolts him upright in his sleep.
What is the reason for your refund? Now, to explain
the daily company of remoteness; the manufactured eyes
at breakfast and the grating predictability of lilting tones;
the artificial rise and empty pause following a question
Wait for the mention of god first, without cynicism / then nod as though you understand something.
and the mockery in it. The vacancy at the core of her
moulded form. The eeriness of personally-requested
responses from a mouth of one’s particular design, amid
assurances of customer happiness and easeful bot transition
due to latest advancements in realistic softness technology.
Yet, a rigid inner machinery is noticeable, adamantly jutting
from beneath; the ill-fit of herin his sleeping place. He craves
a silly quip, the prattling of a fresh anecdote, an ungainly slip,
a flash of side eye in witness to his inadequacy; a kept complaint,
the stirring of indigestion, a scratched finger, a kiss exhaling coffee
or onion, a gaze upon the verge of a subtle turn. He submits
his feedback and leaves, relaxing into the unruly, tender street.