“How People End” by Susan Comninos

Susan Comninos


up married or not, or dead
or cramped in a crisis
of denouement: an atomic
shrill of insight, landing

post-crisis, limp
and late, after the ash.
Grilled into sight, landing
like denouement’s atomic.

Late fingers of ash
brush to formation: a peacock
of denouement. Atomic
as raised blue veins

of rush, as pea-cocked
as foolish feathers, empty.
If raised blue veins are
quills, are bones of no weight,

foolish as feathered blood, emptied
for space—how’s the crush
from quills, bones, the weight
of the terrible, released?

Out for space, we squeeze
our own reckless organs.
Terrible, released
by freedom, we skirt a ruined sky.

Our organs play
the push towards
away, the lewd sky
lumbering past. Elephants

keen the push
on disaster. While we
lumber past, our
massive, veined ears flap.

Disaster, what’s
invented for us: a show of air?
Massive, veined ears flap
applause. Worship

invention, a show of air,
a dry dust dropping
to applause. Our denouement?
It’s married or not, and dead.

Poets Respond
August 23, 2016

[download audio]


Susan Comninos: “This poem was written in the wake of an August 14th op-ed in the New York Times on American nuclear weapons policy. It’s rare that I even try to write a political poem because—to my mind—it’s nearly impossible to make a preachy poem into a readable poem. (And by readable, I mean: bearable.) So, although ‘How People End’ claims to talk about nuclear war, that’s really a conceit. The poem’s not so much about literal destruction, but more about emotional waste. It tries to understand what comes at the end of a life of avoidance, other than a finial of nothingness.” (website)

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