I’m afraid of this, and I’m made
for it—the skies so quiet, empty
of air traffic, my house retreating
into the ridge. I hate that I’m able to endure
what others find intolerable. There are days
I worry the sickness will find me
and I’ll need someone. Other days
I worry it won’t, and there will be
no need to ever leave. When I was little
I wanted to run away, and live
in a shelter I’d make for myself
in the woods behind the library—the most
remote place I knew. Now I live
in the cold territory my longing has become.
I always knew I’d finally arrive.
It’s lonelier than I let myself believe.
No one could be found whom, in such a time of calamity, neither disease,
nor death, nor mourning, nor the loss of friends, had affected.
– Lucretius, “The Nature of Plagues”
Today is more ancient than the oldest poem.
It’s full of stones and the ancient gods,
visiting earth to act out their jealousies
and lust. In the face of such forces, such classical
antipathies, it is safest to stay indoors—
near the fire, the kitchen, with only the company
of dogs. Safest to keep very still.
These ancient days echo forward in time
like empty amphitheaters wept into, echo
backward like rivers flung against mountainsides.
All my life I’ve lived in the present, where I hoped
for ordinary things: love and touch and the comfort
of conversation. The segments of an orange
freed from their acrid peel. Time is a thing tasted
more as texture than sweetness or salinity. But today
there is no present to inhabit: it passes
over the contours of my city, cold and dry.
It leaves behind ruins and broken armor.
In the Future
We will recognize the wind as our common ancestor.
Silence will have substance, and its invasion will be the work of exterminators.
Touch between unlicensed individuals will be outlawed.
Everyone will be a double agent.
I will paddle a canoe through the former rooms of my house.
Empty palms will become the universal currency.
My mother will finish the painting she began just before she died.
Abstractions will be mass manufactured.
Childhood will be an opera that ends with a mushroom cloud.
The internet will abandon earth for another star system.
Love will be powered by electricity.
We will learn the names we have been given by the grasses.
Regret will be a safer home than you ever imagined.
The engineers of the apocalypse will decompose into soft loam.
Sleep’s embassy will be situated near the ruins of academia.
My robot lover will not be afraid of my tears.
Whole cities abandoned to the dead.
We will give up tobacco and learn to smoke our own shadows.
The song of the hermit thrush will be the new national anthem.
Beauty will be dismissed as a myth of the past.
My body will invite itself into the poisonous sea.
Time will again be a refuge.