We were joined by a new figure, whom Àkbä introduced to me as Brôk. “This is the Earthling I wanted you to meet.” Brôk did something I was not ready for: pointing an index finger at each temple, he bowed from the waist. “Pleased to meetcha,” I said, a bit numb. “The pleasure is ours, I can assure you,” Brôk said, his diplomacy not missing a beat.
“He’s a poet,” Àkbä disclosed in a hushed tone to Brôk, to my consternation. This piece of intelligence was received by Brôk with the same sanctity one might presume would accompany a hot investment tip. Brôk had much the same reaction as any Earthman who is invited, unexpectedly, to a beautiful woman’s boudoir in order to peruse the larger meaning of certain passages in Blake or who is told he has just inherited a million dollars—that is to say, Brôk’s eyes grew wide with delight. Needless to say, I was puzzled.
Àkbä later explained to me that, of all the various occupations and professions to which the race of mortal Earthlings was prone, poets were the most highly esteemed; this was a constant throughout the Universe, to which Earth seemed to be the sole exception. Nowhere else in the Universe, he stressed, was poetry produced, although it was greatly appreciated; in certain prestigious quarters of this cosmos, he insisted, poetry was considered to be the distinctive trait of human beings, the very flower of Earth. However, he hastily added, this was true of poets strictly insofar as they concerned themselves with the creation of beautiful objects, with the production of poems. This too, it seemed to me, had a quasi-familiar ring to it.
Along these lines, he was able to tell me something about Joracian Society, which has three social classes. The First, and lowest, Level is composed of bureaucrats, basically political types. The Second Level, which devotes itself exclusively to meaningless and archaic ritual, resembles nothing so much as what we call religion. The Third Level has no translatable analog, but most closely resembles poetry and the behavior of poets—except, of course, that it would never occur to a Joracian to actually make a poem.
“What do members of your class do?” I asked Àkbä.
“We handle all Communications,” he answered.
“What are you going to do with all of us?” I inquired.
“After dividing you by kinship ties and scent, we plan to resettle you in colonies all over the Universe.” As he related the Plan, everybody would have at least some of the people they had known and loved back on Earth in their colony, but not all of them. For example, a brother or sister might share a life in a new colony with one another, but their father or mother would inhabit a colony perhaps a billion light-years away. The Joracians who researched the evacuation of Earth had access to mountains of human dream-data for each individual; the Joracian teams had their priorities straight in choosing the principles of composition for each colony. “We tried to respect everyone’s Unconscious,” Àkbä mentioned quixotically. Possibly, distant relatives and loved ones might be permitted to visit each other; certainly they would communicate. We would just have to adopt a “wait and see policy,” he said. “That is where the poets will come in handy,” Àkbä deduced.
I asked what he meant.
“If the Resettlement Program is to be successful, we are going to desperately need your support and assistance.”
This sounded pretty vague, so I was relieved when he got more explicit.
“Earth is gone, you may as well face it. The entire framework, secular and political, which made events and actions meaningful—all is vanished! If human beings are to avoid becoming extinct, they will have to be retooled for a higher activity and purpose. The seeds of which, it just so happens, are embedded in your world’s art and literature.”
Uh-huh, I thought: Right. At that moment, I felt as if I knew precisely what he was talking about.
“You, my dear friend, are going to help us to replant those seeds.”