Sunday, July 15, 2012

All Night Arcade

All-Night Arcade

I am playing Galaga in my imagination
in the last century where all around me
kids packed tighter than bees in a hive
labour to master rows of arcade games,
crowding to witness if anyone makes it
to a new level, beats an old high score,
wipes out an army of extra-terrestrials.
Time and space stand still for the price
of a quarter. The universe, a toy parlour,
enshrining the Grand Narrative of Life
and Death. Pixellated blooms burst in
neon cascades across our beatific faces
while the world drags on into the ruins
of the Eighties. Ronald Reagan is shot.
The great hurts and loves of this world
enter into us. Childhood one more urn
in History’s mausoleum. Psychedelic Furs,
My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus and Mary
Chain. Mix-tapes for a new generation
who witness the space shuttle explode,
the Exxon Valdez spill, the Berlin Wall
topple like an empire. In our twenties,
the arcades vanish. The circumference
of the planet enlarges. We leave home
for school or to work jobs in big cities,  
summers in Europe to lose ourselves,
but time is theft, and we soon ascend
to the next round, our thirties, a shiny
millennial collect-a-thon with all new
obstacles to jump over, skill challenges
to undertake. More enemies, less lives.
Nostalgia is a verdict for not living well
which is why in my forties all night long
I sit here watching myself as a teenager
play a video game with time running out,
a pilgrim trying to get to the golden city
at the last level, knowing when the game
is over, neither he nor I will continue.

By Chris Banks