March 26, 1997
The end of the world has come and gone
and taken with it the suicidal sons
hidden in their beds, in clean black shirts
and wingéd Nikes, laid at heaven’s gate.
In each trouser, three quarters and a five
to pay the starship, to gather up these lives
entrusted to some oddly meticulous,
transactional plan that left its cash to us,
its anatomies to an empty mansion.
Vehicles, that is what they called them,
they who gripped each other like a problem.
It takes sacrifice to love perfection
more than love, blood and tears to level
the heart’s accounts into those of angels.
Sure, the end gives birth to many ends,
we know that, not all so quick to abandon
the mother far away who hears no news
for years. And then, at last, we all do.
The suicide hears a thing we cannot hear.
He narrows his aim. He squints. He disappears.
No cry to repent above the smoke of traffic.
Still the night sky would stiffen the back
of any kid who suffers his insignificance,
who pins a savior to the fiery silence.
Did it seem cruel, I wonder, or ungrateful,
as they washed down the phenobarbital
with prayers and vodka and slipped their heads
into the plastic. What was it the body said,
that the symbols of our cautionary hell
must find us without ceasing to be symbol.
The aliens and spacecraft of a higher life
are not cold. They are sad beyond belief.
There is another end, the one that says,
careful, love, there’s more to come: always
this decision to make like a bed, a gift,
an earth in the gardener’s hand that turns it.
Always death that is useful, fertile, but still
death, and so, like fantasy, cannot be killed.
Careful, the mother tells her child because
fire is fire, smoke smoke. Matter matters. Always
remember, says the fire. Remember, the smoke.
The end of the world is everywhere you look.
When my mother died, I walked and walked.
I lay down to sleep. And walked a little more.