Conjunctions:38 Rejoicing Revoicing

Three Requia
Benjamin Franklin Goes Down on the Airship Hindenburg

If I had known it was going to end like this I wouldn’t have flown that kite in the first place. Enough static electricity or sabotage introduced, as ‘twere, into an atmosphere of pure hydrogen will ignite Said Gas with an acceleration destined to place those within the vicinity in great danger of Death by Burning, or as in this case, Falling and Burning. Being aloft with the vessel afire is no condition under which to contemplate Scientific Phenomena, and suffice it to say pandemonium abroad was enough to distract one from cool observation. (Had the craft descended more slowly the silver piano might have finished its lament.) Physical employment of flight will never be mankind’s true line of country—the plunge proves it—and so won’t Our Dear Republic thereby and henceforth in part be sent asunder by the collapse of Faith and Aeronautics, witnessed This Day at Lakehurst, State of New Jersey, America? Haven’t I myself fallen through time and history to report on the Blistering Descent with smoke and tumbling Bottles of Schnapps? On another occasion I might like trying a lift in a different machine, but for today, no thank you, Good Sirs, this has been quite enough for a Simple Journeyman, I bid you. Pray twist me out of your hotspot before landing and say no more.


Murder of Stanford White, Madison Square Garden, 1906

Men always kill each other for us. Why not. Each pillar they build means another child gone, so who cares when they discharge pistols? Let them strangle themselves with the starch of their collars. Let them bleed to death in their own palm-flocked garden. No mourning remains, once the body is burned, and only standing palaces remark on the whim of architect and Lothario, what impulse of genius, fortune, and beauty propelled him along the gilded road to a premature exit. There at the top of his form. The swing of red velvet held more than flesh in its pendulum. More than pleasure and deniability befall those who steal flowers. Once empire is built and sealed, nothing can thaw it except truth and a young girl’s tongue. After that, who cares what books say? Who cares what they charge to visit mansions of the dead?


J. Edgar Hoover Trains His Own Bird

Mesmerized from her first diaper forward, she would infer decades later a different ilk of excrementalism with Constitutional cotton. Then, soap smell and clean hands. Nothing matters except what the public thinks it thinks. No canary shall every drool a thinner spittle. How coyly microphone and perjury combine to instill the layman’s mirage of fidelity, that tart eyebrow arched for a newsreel’s decadent chatter, what press barons decide in between tee shots down the sward of false history on the make. This is why legends never survive. Of G-Men and racehorses, freedom and Panama hats, by sundown nothing matters except that last nag hoofing sod into the final league, and the way night turns johnny this sordid business of gangs and bureaus; whatever it takes. If she never lived we would have to invent her, so critical was her place in the old century’s program, how balanced the scales. By the time they straighten the record no one will be alive who cares, but the lesson is there nonetheless. The ruminant you love today is tomorrow’s dog meat, and this is the point: Kill what you protect.

Michael Bergstein is the former managing editor of Conjunctions.