What A Wonderful World

Gautham Narendar '23

Beneath a dying sky, beneath a dying city, the voice of a man long-dead sings, and the fingers of a man long-dead strum a guitar. What used to be the center of the world has fallen on dark days. The torch of liberty has been put out, and the majestic empire, high in the sky, has been toppled. But the voice, one of a memory from oh-so-long ago, cares not. The fingers simply strum a quick F, and a song echoes through an abandoned tunnel, once the daily thoroughfare for millions.

“I see trees of green, red roses too. I see them bloom, for me and you."*

The words trigger a memory, one that lies above the singing man. Greenery consumed by an inferno, a park stretching for miles enveloped in horrible flame. Eyes pass over a man lying next to a woman, a bouquet of roses in his hands, as the fire consumed them.

“And I think to myself. What a wonderful world.”

 

The song continues, lilting and crooning with the old gruffness of jazz.

 

“I see skies of blue, and clouds of white. The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night."

And the verse triggers a memory, once again. An orange sky, a blazing mix of smoke and soot and pollution. Suddenly, the heavens lit up in a brilliant explosion of white light, and everything went black.

“And I think to myself. What a wonderful world.”

 

From F to C7, the chord changes.

"The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky. Are also on the faces of people going by.”

A new memory follows: people tired, hungry, and hopeless. As they huddled in clusters for safety, a strange haze shimmered over their city. It floated down, slowly falling upon enraptured citizens, who danced gleefully in that prismatic summer snow. And then, it touched their faces, and the laughter turned to screams.

“I see friends shaking hands, saying, 'How do you do?' They're really saying, 'I love you.'"

Two friends held bloody arms together in a brother's handshake, palms cut across the center and bleeding. Their other arms held rifles, and together, they rushed across the Brooklyn Bridge amid the explosions and the gunfire.

 

The blood of the covenant is truly thicker than the water of the womb, the singer ponders, as words continue to flow.

“I hear babies cry; I watch them grow. They'll learn much more than I'll never know."

A final memory, one that sends a smile across the musician’s face. Mothers and fathers alike, weeping, holding carefully wrapped bundles in their arms. They unwrap their children, sometimes whole, sometimes broken, sometimes pieced together, and place them on a growing pile. The tears fill all of Times Square as the match lights the flame: a generation of hope burned to the ground.

 

Death places down his acoustic guitar and admires his handiwork. As he strolls into the hellscape that was once New York City, he thinks to himself... what a wonderful world.

 

*Song: What a Wonderful World, by Louis Armstrong