"The electorate tends to exist perpetually in the present tense, with little collective memory or foresight." Steve Kornacki, "W’s elevator endorsement trick," Salon.com (May 16, 2012)

A Mall and the Night Visitors
(with apologies to a made-for-TV opera with a similar-sounding name)

Late one night at the empty shopping mall,
A lonely guard patrolled, by the name of Amahl,
Who’d learned a little English from his friends at school,
Who showed him, in the present tense, the way to drool
Quotations of what he and others once had said
As if the past and memory had long-since fled.

“I go” and “I’m like” and “I’m all” (in their way),
They gesture and they mimic, but they never “say.”
Whatever comes next from their larynx and jaws
Would seem to indicate (in the absence of laws)
Some speech with no relation to an absent “time”
That always means “now,” explained in pantomime.

And so it came to pass as the guard made his rounds,
That he began to hear a few suspicious sounds
Which filled him with a growing sense of creepy awe
Along with spectral visions that he thought he saw
Reflected in the windows of the shuttered shops
Abandoned by their owners – current business flops.

“You’re all under arrest!” the rent-a-cop cried.
“Under arrest,” the spooky ones replied.

“You’re going to jail!” Amahl exclaimed once more.
“To jail,” the ghosts responded -- for their encore.

“You’re all, like, my prisoners,” he hopefully appended.
“My prisoners,” they added -- where he started and ended.

But then he woke up in his English class
And poor Amahl recalled that he would need to pass
A test this coming Friday written on a page
By someone more than several months above his age
Who sympathized with kids who have to work so late
But couldn’t change the language to avoid their fate.

Michael Murry, "The Misfortune Teller," Copyright © 2011