Breakfast milk, earlier today.
This poem came from its epigram, a Kurt Vonnegut line that struck me while I was reading Slaughterhouse-Five.  If you've not read Kurt I recommend him.  He's a SF author, but also very much about everyday life; philosophical without being full of himself.

If he has a flaw it's that he's a little too aware of trying for an 'everyman' quality, of making his characters all John Q Public, but you have to respect his trying.

Anyway, as I only took the one line, and then completely reinterpreted it, you won't find a lot of him in this.

BCE, of course, stands for "Before the Common Era", which is what archaeologists now say in an attempt to remove the built-in cultural bias of "BC".  Personally I prefer MYA (Million Years Ago) but that's for dinosaurs.


Everybody is supposed to be dead,
to never say anything or want anything ever again.

—Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

Time happened so long ago.
The milkman's note is deep carved
dead-language, symbolic, on the door frame.

Evidence for breakfast can be sifted
from the archaeological layer:
people ate toasted grains, bread,
fruit preserved in storage jars.

They may have wanted extra pints
which the milkman didn't leave.

If I still spoke that language
I would pull a message from the potsherds,
write a learned paper, a coffee table book,
show how civilisation faltered
a voice was raised
a door was slammed...

It was all over long ago—
I make notes with some detachment.


  1. I can't believe you don't think Vonnegut is full of himself. He absolutely loves himself. I would like Vonnegut if he didn't love himself so much, but even then I wouldn't like him as much as he'd like himself.

    1. Hmm... do you mean in person or in his text?

      If you mean personally then that doesn't matter to me as I enjoy the text anyway...

      If you mean inside the text, then I think I know what you mean. E.g. that his omniscient narrator is authoritative and tells that things are as (he) says, without self-doubt--is that where you're coming from?

      If so then I really don't find that a problem. It's just part of the construction of the novel. KV has a philosophy he's putting over and in the story world that philosophy is right, because that world was constructed to show it. There's plenty of self-doubt in the characters, adding it to the narration as well in my opinion would just muddle things unnecessarily.

      We know we don't 100% agree with KV. I imagine he knows it too. However it's not necessary to cover that in the story itself.

      Maybe I shouldn't have said that he wasn't full of himself--that's all-in-all irrelevant to enjoying his work--maybe I should have said his philosophy wasn't full of itself. It's a day-to-day philosophy, a household one for casual uses...

      Does any of this gel with your perspective. I'm not sure I'm talking remotely about the same things as you :-) but this is my take.


    2. Yes, I was referring to the works, not the man.

      It's the whole smug "so it goes" attitude that bothers me. Every time he wheels out that catchphrase, the subtext is "stupid characters should have seen it coming".

      He certainly does have a philosophy and his stories, especially his later ones, all seem tailored to deliver it. They are effectively fables. You don't learn anything about people or the world from reading KV, all you learn is what KV thinks about people and the world. He seems to me to believe that he has all the answers and I really hate that in a writer.

  2. Ah! I see now where we're differing.

    I guess I also think he thinks he has all the answers... except for me "all" in his case comes down to one answer--that there are no answers.

    Thus I see him more as having had all the fight/fire/anger/pretensions beaten out of him by experience, and arrived in a more placid and peaceful place. (I guess that can't help but be a little knowing.) For me he's trying to save others the same painful journey and help them straight to the destination. It's a bit Taoist (disclaimer: read one short book on Taoism, once, disagreed with every part of it).

    So the "so it goes" doesn't to me imply that the characters should have known, rather, the reverse: that nobody can ever know and they should have planned--if at all--with that fundamental unpredictability/chaos/unfairness (word?) in mind...

    1. (The word (word?) in brackets is from the first edit of that sentence where I used "unknowability" -- it won't make any sense in this version :-))