World Without End
As the calendar year 2012 comes to an end, so does the approaching end of the Mayan calendar, on December 21, the winter solstice. Here are some poems that look at end-of-the-world situations or feelings…and that somehow also convey a world without end. At this particular moment, the sadness strikes home, the absurdity bites like a winter wind, and the hope is sorely needed.
Click on each poet’s name to read that poet’s solo feature here at Escape Into Life. Click on Matt Eich’s name to see more of his photography.
A tender solstice to you. –Kathleen Kirk, Poetry Editor
On the Beginning of Winter in Some Lost
Industrial City of the North River Country
Coatsleeves. Weeping brick. So the sky kicks down
its cold doors. The woman next door saying
something. Nothing, baby. Nothing,
he says back. I don’t know one thing
about that. The river ice, the sky ice, a boy’s face
ice-wracked: red as flowers, his blood big.
His mother? Where is she? Next door:
Baby, please? You want a cigarette? Baby? Now
like wet factory smoke the dark falling. How smoke
is evidence. How nothing’s
burning. So streetlight. So black hat. Your breath
riding the wind’s bad back down the pocked alley,
up the gin store’s grim bricks, and up, up
the cloud-laddered sky, the stone bluffs east of town—
then to break, fade like common smoke. Up there: big
houses and burr oaks in their vestal robes of snow. Down
here: ropes of icy rain. Sumac’s frozen, broken fingers. Down
here: a man opening a door into some kind of life,
saying, Baby. Baby, I think I’ll step out.
Get me some cigarettes. You want something? Baby?
Auditioning for the Apocalypse
The summer before I turned seven,
every girl I knew got religion
at the same time they caught
the last remnants of Disco Fever.
Their cheeks flushed, lips bright red,
they shivered in the August heat,
practiced the hustle in their backyards
and bedrooms. They ironed
their hair flat, wore flared jeans
and tube tops, thin elastic catching
sweat that pooled in their collar bones,
dripped down their shoulder blades.
We’re waiting for the wapture,
lisped my best friend, as she showed me
her moves, all jerky shoulder rocks
and pelvic thrusts. We spilled out
onto the front sidewalk, skinny thighs
twitching to imaginary music.
Tarantella, muttered old Mrs. Fiorentino
who dismissed our frenzied steps
with a wave of her broom. Brushing
dry leaves from her porch, swiping
a stray cobweb from the banisters,
she explained that our dancing would cure
us from a deadly spider’s bite.
But we knew we were already saved.
We threw craft store glitter on our skin
until we shimmered through the seams
of our cut-off jeans. We bathed
in sidewalk steam after thunderstorms,
waiting to be whisked away in sparkle.
after Djuna Barnes
The atom, split, explodes a cloud.
Great Gaia now is wrapped in shroud.
No one is left, no man, no woman.
Euphrates cradles nothing human.
Back to silence, every opera.
To formless slab, the Pietà.
Again the temple’s silks are ripped.
The stone holds fast that seals the crypt.
By Abel’s corpse, unhappy Cain
has slain himself for having slain.
Time unspools. No ape evolves.
Earth, unnamed, revolves, revolves.
[Originally published in Here from Away, 2003]
Sisyphus pushing that boulder
that boulder rolling
and until now I never thought about
what Sisyphus thought about
when that boulder reached the top
what went through his head as it nearly settled
did he watch it until it nested itself
heavy in the valley
before starting again
Sisyphus pushing that boulder
did he put himself in its path
facing a death within death
and would it be painless
like Wile E. Coyote
flattened to bounce back
with a crisp
or was it an end
the story we haven’t gotten to yet, the
That’s All Folks
Risking of writing of clear
This all in the hospital bed
An exoskeleton of constructed days, memories
pried from the soft
and, Man, it’s cold
and, Yes, you have to
I got a pocket full of stones
Prayer Before Dawn
Lord of the spun globe,
of roofline silhouette, pale wash
of coming sun,
this thinning hour is the only threshold
I’ll ever need.
The greying black.
The black, greying.
Lord, let me die just before dawn.
Let my fading be twinned
with the night’s fading,
Let me knock on your door
in the half-dawn. Let my hands
be knotted with years,
many troubles. Let my hands
be all you see
when you rush, worried,
to the door,
too early for visitors, and see
the weak, round glow
of my lantern. Then,
if you have a face, Lord,
Put it in my light.