Saturday, October 11, 2014

In Which I Woke Up with Doom in My Head


James Tate

Nothing remained: Nothing, the wanton name
That nightly I rehearsed till led away
To a dark sleep, or sleep that held one dream.

In this a huge contagious absence lay,
More space than space, over the cloud and slime,
Defined but by the encroachments of its sway.

Stripped to indifference at the turns of time,
Whose end I knew, I woke without desire,
And welcomed zero as a paradigm.

But now it breaks—images burst with fire
Into the quiet sphere where I have bided,
Showing the landscape holding yet entire:

The power that I envisaged, that presided
Ultimate in its abstract devastations,
Is merely change, the atoms it divided

Complete, in ignorance, new combinations.
Only an infinite finitude I see
In those peculiar lovely variations.

It is despair that nothing cannot be
Flares in the mind and leaves a smoky mark
Of dread.
               Look upward. Neither firm nor free,

Purposeless matter hovers in the dark.


Bill Berkson

Somebody down there hates us deeply,
Has planted a thorn where slightest woe may overrun.

Disorderly and youthful sorrow, many divots picked at since
Across the thrice-hounded comfort zone.

Can’t cut it, sees permanent crones
Encroaching aside likely lanes of executive tar

All spread skyward.
You got the picture, Bub:

This world is ours no more,
And those other euphemisms for grimly twisting wrath,

A wire-mesh semblance bedecked
With twilight’s steamy regard.

Look at the wind out here.
Delete imperative.

Hours where money rinses life like sex,
Whichever nowadays serves as its signifier.


Mary Carr

Once warring factions agreed upon the date   
and final form the apocalypse would take,   
and whether dogs and cats and certain trees
deserved to sail, and if the dead would come or be left   
a forwarding address, then opposing soldiers   
met on ravaged plains to shake hands   
and postulate the exact shade
of the astral self—some said lavender,   
others gray. And physicists rocketed
copies of the decree to paradise
in case God had anything to say,
the silence that followed being taken   
for consent, and so citizens
readied for celestial ascent.

Those who hated the idea stayed indoors   
till the appointed day. When the moon   
clicked over the sun like a black lens   
over a white eye, they stepped out   
onto porches and balconies to see   
the human shapes twist and rise   
through violet sky and hear trees uproot   
with a sound like enormous zippers   
unfastening. And when the last grassblades   
filled the air, the lonely vigilants fell   
in empty fields to press their bodies   
hard into dirt, hugging their own outlines.

Then the creator peered down from his perch,   
as the wind of departing souls tore the hair   
of those remaining into wild coronas,   
and he mourned for them as a father   
for defiant children, and he knew that each   
small skull held, if not some vision
of his garden, then its aroma of basil
and tangerine washed over by the rotting sea.   
They alone sensed what he’d wanted
as he first stuck his shovel into clay
and flung the planets over his shoulder,
or used his thumbnail to cut smiles and frowns   
on the first blank faces. Even as the saints   
arrived to line before his throne singing
and a wisteria poked its lank blossoms
through the cloudbank at his feet,
he trained his gaze on the deflating globe
where the last spreadeagled Xs clung like insects,   
then vanished in puffs of luminous smoke,

which traveled a long way to sting his nostrils,   
the journey lasting more than ten lifetimes.   
A mauve vine corkscrewed up from the deep   
oblivion, carrying the singed fume
of things beautiful, noble, and wrong.