As a species, or is it just as a culture, we’re pretty sold on novelty. Whether it’s a new diet, a new piece of technology or a new political leader, there’s something about that sense of something new, something novel, that gives us a little burst of hope, which is something we tend to believe in. Hence we like oracles too, because we have an irrational idea that if we can look a bit ahead of the present there’ll be a little more to hope for. To a Cassandra however, this kind of optimism is just another aspect of consumerism – a lie-back-and-lay-it-on-me approach to the world, which I guess she must despise, in her way. I say “in her way” because poor Cassandra doesn’t really have the right kind of analytical mind that will articulate defects in people’s attitude, say, or make a useful contribution to the Economy. In fact, she’s actually just a bit of a burden….
People scowled, or laughed, as she rocked in the corner
– and get your hands out of there, you’re a grown woman –
and some said she was damaged, she couldn’t help it
though all agreed she couldn’t be allowed to go on
with her moaning, her lies, poisoning relationships
simply because she felt upset. The trouble was
What was meant by allowed, exactly.
Could she be controlled by drugs, or was a firm hand
and a proper ticking-off what was really required?
Everyone was quite inconvenienced to feel
they were walking on eggshells around her
and she could lash out without warning, but
Did it warrant physical restraints? – no-one
was too keen on that. And so she became
a kind of event horizon catching
everyone up in her vortex, the fat polyester
Cassandra snivelling in her private misery or
sweetening her mood with fizzy drinks.
And what was it with those predictions?
Why always doom and never anything good?
If it was all to be that bad then surely
there’d be some sign of it by now! That last one
about some wired thing whose very use would
steal people’s souls, it was a non-event
and life goes on. Look, it just goes on.
There was no outbreak of plague, no apocalypse
and statistics show violent crime decreasing, why
believe the next one? She would say nothing,
stare stupidly at the questioner. Stupidly
was all she could stare anyway.
It was only on her deathbed (and what
a relief that was!) she was heard to growl
among the pillows (pillows someone else
had laundered, she being so handless):
You’re all fools, it all came true, you were all too
pumped-up with hope to even notice.
We went off muttering, there’s nothing
wrong with a bit of optimism surely, how else
do you get by, you’d think she’d want to make her peace
when it all came to an end, when there was no more
horizon for her to squint over. It was her heart
predictably (prediction by normal standards) –
A blueblack-faced whale she lay there
still staring stupidly at nothing, hands thrust
resolutely between her thighs, you’d almost think
she’d meant to produce something from in there,
some told-you-so sweet baby, though of course
you could only expect it to turn out a monster.
Why has this child come to heaven? St Petra asked
she was never allowed to live, how can she die?
The souls that fall to earth always go tasked
they know it’s not some ninety-year holiday,
they know it’s not a sleek tourists-highway
trodden by pink ponies, girls laughing sky-high –
Send her back, I say, and elevate
her to somewhere where she can count, wield fear
over her senseless complacent sisterhood, sow hate
sow discord where it’ll hurt, seeds of disease
to poison oceans, not mere families
to empty out wombs, make the dull slouches give ear
when she pronounces, like when the thunder spoke
round the Gaya hills, when the old certainties broke.