Midnight Messsage by Ivars Balkits

I get a midnight message—I get it. A newspaper in a thrift store, yellowed, “The Last News.” A pile of those newspapers on the glass counter by the register. Articles about panic, disaster, storms. I thought the tract was new and that it was on beige paper. Instead, it’s old and yellowing. Teen gangs carrying switchblades and zip-guns and defending turf. Beatniks, disregarding the unfolding apocalypse. Part of a ship’s crew disappears. Disappearances all over the world, described cleverly: stock market crashes, traffic pile-ups, factory production at a standstill, fatalistic Hollywood cocktail parties, soldiers in South Asian jungle camouflage, wondering about the suddenly missing-in-action. Suddenly many missing materially, physically. Graves empty. Maternity wards bereft. One half-tone pic depicting a screaming mother. It is one I recognize from protests against the American War in Viet Nam that appeared in a New York daily newspaper. Male though, not mother. A shaggy-haired man in Central Park protesting the war. It’s the one on which I based my Day Glo painting “Scream.” I propped up the painting in the opened trunk of my car and drove around Yonkers. As a kind of maybe art statement?

The tract masquerading as a newspaper is about the last minute, the last second. It’s “The Last News,” about the urgent Now of the 1960s. I can believe it ended then. I can believe the disappearances happened then.

Ivars Balkits has most recently published poetry and prose in several anthologies and on the web sites for Otoliths, Thirteen Myna Birds, OccuPoetry, ditch, Silenced Press, Merge Poetry Journal, and Counter Example Poetics. He is a recipient of two Individual Excellence Awards from the Ohio Arts Council, for poetry in 1999 and creative nonfiction in 2014.