Disappointments Of The Apocalypse

By Mary Karr

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.

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