July 16

July 16   Topenville is a city with a population about three times as big as that of Chicago and Cedar Rapids combined.  Huge casks of flaming whale oil, placed at each street intersection, furnish the only illumination.  There are no houses, no shops, no police-stations– these hardy people live in baskets suspended from captive balloons; and indeed the whole effect is one of a stupendous garden with cables leading up stem-like to giant, vari-colored eggplants that sway gracefully in the back-wash of fighting planes which constantly harass them– amusing to hear the deafening pops when a direct hit is made.  This goes on all the time.  Those who are shot down immediately go up again, this time as pilots bent on bringing a few balloons down in their turn; in this way everyone has a chance to be shot at and to do a little shooting.  No one is unemployed because there are always planes to be built, and damaged ones in need of repairs and new parts.  Everyone, of course, is much to busy to eat.

This sport is quite harmless and entertaining.  We had heard that death was unknown; that is true–in a certain sense.  The real truth is that these people are dead; what they fear is life.  When they “die”, they are transported to Hannibal, Missouri, where they must remain for all time.  Their chief sage has said: “Life must come to all men; much as we may struggle against it.”

from The Journal of Albion Moonlight
© Kenneth Patchen 1941

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