On Reading On Reading Horace

by Jack Nachmanovitch

Time folds. In 2019 we read a poem written by Brecht in
1953 reflecting on 1939-1945 as he reads the words of a
poet who lived from 65-8 BC, in another indomitable empire
primed for violent collapse. We look backwards on his
looking backwards. We sense what might lie ahead.

In the curation in which we read “On Reading Horace” there
is an interesting absence, a gap in poems of ten years,
1930-1939: the shift. Years before the war technically
started, the war had already begun. Before most realized.
Shift. The feeling in the air that a torrential rain could begin
at any moment, a new flood.

We all feel it, don’t we? Right now? Everyone else can feel it
too, can’t you? In the air, in the fur standing up like flags on
the back of our necks. We are in another shift. We are on the
verge of something irreversible.

We all intuitively feel it, this tension seeping out of everyone,
this sensation that war will crystalize out of air at any
moment. The sky seems ready to pelt waves of bloody shit
on our beds of skin and green fields of depleted snow — our
oxygen masks and floral tank tops — our ballads about
animals that used to exist back when we learned their
names. If we are already in a shift, can it be reversed or
defused? Or is the atmosphere already supersaturated with
bloodshed yet to come, inescapable?

Black water subsided / True, though, not many / lived to
outlast it.

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