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Nothing Saved
Marcus Bales

The Times killed God when I was three
And didn’t leave much for you and me
But rock ‘n’ roll and an empty culture of sales;
They sold their papers and sold their ads
And touted all the modes and fads –
Everybody chasing their holy grails.

We grew up soft and we grew up slow
With too much sex and dope and dough
And a sense the world was mad but we were cool;
We sassed the teachers we didn’t like
And then if punished called a strike,
Demanding relevance or we’d close the school.

Our parents, who had fought the War,
Refused to fight with us, and swore
We’d have the best of all they had to give;
So coddled carefully by cash
We spent our school years talking trash
Instead of learning how we ought to live.

Now you sell this and I sell that
Your brand of shoes, my style of hat,
Each shuck and shuffle prompts a jive and dodge;
We lease the things that we can’t buy
And then we can’t remember why
We’ve got that junk piled up in the garage.

Amid the stress of modern lives
We, unmanned men and beaten wives,
Condemned to do what once we would have shunned,
Attempt to solve old social ills
By seeking thrills, ingesting pills,
Or fretting that the Feds have us out-gunned.

We hate the boss, dislike our teachers,
Fear the friends who’re over-reachers,
And up is how we always think we’re wised;
But yet we want that A or raise
So, pusillanimously, praise
In public people privately despised.

Pretending we are self-reliant,
Posing as if still defiant,
Visa-ing the net, AmEx-ing shops —
In each heart a hippie hellion
Leads a mini-van rebellion
‘Til stopped by fit young local traffic cops.

We think our credit is so good
That we deserve that someone should
Discover how to reach those Golden Isles
Where everyone is thin and young,
And well-endowed and better-hung,
And we go free on Frequent Flyer miles.

We claim our lives are good and clean —
By which we almost always mean
We don’t get caught, and laugh ironic laughter;
We just expect to get away
With everything we do or say
While deferential others clean up after.

But deference demands respect,
At least it did last time I checked,
And what respect we had is almost spent:
Spent in drinks and puffs and snorts,
Spent in sex and sex reports,
Spent without a clue to what it meant.

And now that we are growing old
We carp about it getting cold
Without the warm resilience of our youth —
For we have nothing saved or earned —
The pleasure domes to which we turned
Are smoking ruins telling us the truth:

There’s nothing left except a husk
Of what we were, and that long dusk
Of punishing regret we’ve yet to sample;
We’re going to die; we won’t survive:
No one here gets out alive —
Our legacy will be our bad example.