A Still Fog. A Flat Sea.
Sex, race, politics, religion: it was all
flotsam at the harbour’s edge, a sign
of the era’s debris: the docks smashed,
the boats splintered, the sea a victor
in a victory of seas. The oceans rose
and swamped our vain imaginings,
the provisions we’d harboured against
the water’s rise, the waves politicking
for a seat at the table, until they swept
the table away—–Sex, race, politics, religion,
four boats headed straight for the pilings,
four boats without ropes for mooring,
without rudders, without captains, no one
at the helm, no one to check the heading
as they raced into whitewater
calamity and churn―
Tell me, in the days before the end, what did you dream?
I was paralyzed at the threshold, I felt the wind through the door but I could not look.
How did you recognize the end days?
Each mast a spine—–the rigging made a bone-music when the wind blew, when the sails were down—–
How did you travel?
I couldn’t remember why I walked back in my office—–it was like a dream, the way the student waiting in the hall said, ‘It’s neurological, the way you walk into a room and forget why you entered—–‘
Did you suffer much?
I didn’t believe the Master when he said the moon was dead.
Is there still hope?
Beef, coffee, chocolate—–didn’t we burn the world?
How will this end?
I’ll put on the pig mask and pose against the barnyard back-drop.
When the smoke cleared, what was left?
Foghorns, their ghost-moan of warning, though the ships were battered and gone.
We danced to the beat of bloggers inventing pseudonyms:
……….Anarcho-Grandma, Olive Goil, Pez—–Dispenser of Daily Wisdom.
We danced to the beat of The Cutter, on her flowered bedspread, cutting.
We danced to the beat of graffiti exploding from a day-glo eye:
……….”Ehyeh asher ehyeh, I am that I am!’
We danced to the beat of people trusting, not trusting, people, to saviours debating palindromes.
We danced to the beat of the digital president
……….saying remain calm remain calm remain calm—–
We danced to the beat of drones floating over the desert,
……….technicians nodding at their screens.
We danced to the beat of ragged vigilantes firing RPGs
……….from the parapets.
We danced to the beat of dust devils whirling over drought-cracked cornfields.
We danced to the beat of smoke rising from charred bodies,
……….tangled limbs, the rib-tented torsos of the starved.
…crawling blind in hats of metal—–
Everything was ending and still they tried to get it right. But for him, the helmets were a problem. He tried to hint at this in the poem: the obvious metaphor must be wrong. But she insisted: the helmets kept arriving; he kept turning them away. Turning away, as in that coffee shop when the conversation lulled: he’d turned to watch the man in the frayed sweater in the darkest corner open a journal, write a single line, and then scan the shop, eyes wary—–
Still, there were moments. She’d written, the citizens gathered / in little knots at each shipping container. The echo of Olson in the word citizens, the surprise in the word knots. He’d written about the lobsterman hoisting his pots. That rhyme. She: The waves that sloshed up the pilings. The surprise and rightness of that up. Then he gave in to the helmets, with a fortuitous bit about staring into their dark bowls. As if nourishment. As if mystery. Or, as she wrote, in a turn that would never have occurred to him: as if scrying for the source—–
What do you remember?
A still fog. A flat sea.
Were you afraid to be alone?
We dragged the wrecked boats ashore and salvaged enough to build a raft.
Did you pray?
Using bedsheets for sails, we made passage.
Did you practice divination?
Whales groaned and whistled in the harbour’s mouth.
Did you believe the signs?
Terns dipped and swerved off the bow. Dolphins curved alongside.
Who said it was hopeless?
We kept the bonfire blazing all night. We scoured the horizon for lights.
Why do you keep coming back to the harbour?
Gunmetal, that horizon, and a crimson-rimmed sea.