How to Save the World

—after “Weltrettungsprojekt” [World Rescue Project], 1995-ongoing, Vanda Vieira-Schmidt

In Germany, in an asylum, there lives a woman who makes art. She is free to make art all day every day as much as she likes, because they say she is crazy. On her moderate days, maybe she too says she is crazy. In any case, all day she draws sketches for the secret police to decode, for the protection of the people of the world. She loves the people of the world. She is doing this for them. I think I know how she feels. In California there was an heiress who believed she’d die if her mansion ever was completed; the workmen kept adding crazy little rooms and windows and stairs to nowhere and were still working on it when she died. There are times when I’d like to live in an apartment building where all my neighbors are old friends, and there’s a dining hall downstairs, and a laundry service so that all I do all day is sit here and write. Sometimes I believe if I’m good enough I might make a small difference, put off terrestrial catastrophe just a little longer, although between her and me we’re definitely creating our way through a lot of trees. This lissome German woman has lent her desk to an art exhibit. It looks like a tidier version of the desk I am using right now. I suppose she’s back in Germany making more drawings to save the world, and she’ll add them to this burgeoning mountain of office paper when they bring her desk back to her. Ezra Pound was committed to an asylum for shooting off his mouth, saying he admired the way Mussolini ran Italy. Stupid effete Fascist. Crazy like a fox, though—there he was in the asylum, central heating, no bills to worry about, all kinds of time to write. He did some good work in there. Remember “step on a crack, break your mother’s back”? We kids were very careful on the sidewalks. A coup topples one bad government in favor of another one. Mosquitoes kill millions of humans and livestock, but Donald Trump is fine. If he gets his way, I’ll be put away. This is what happens, what they do to you, where they put you.

NANCY KEATING's poetry has been published in several anthologies and literary magazines including New Letters, Southwest Review (pending),The Southampton Review, Tar River PoetryPotomac Review, Crab Creek Review, and others. She is pursuing an MFA at Stony Brook University.