How late’s the age we live in? What I mean
is now, a Thursday in the Holocene,
wildfires are singeing Anaheim, and sea
levels are rising, and I can’t escape
the sense of living in a libertine
empire, the sense payback will wipe us clean
out of creation. Hey, you hearing me—
yeah you—my countryman, my fellow ape?
Listen: on Sunday, when a brute wind gusted
through the trailer in my pal’s backyard,
a dirty window tumbled from its frame,
and I said ‘shit,’ went out and found it busted.
I slit a finger picking up a shard.
The stars and stripes is smashed like that. A shame—
all those shivers lying in the mud,
their edges threatening there will be blood.
Our world is breaking down as squirrels play
in tall grass underneath a cottonwood.
As lizards easy in their creaturehood
sun on a stucco wall, I have to say
the world is breaking down, down, down for good.
If I could wrestle hope out of the way,
if I got past “You know, I really should
try doing something,” if I understood
time isn’t working toward a better day,
I would be beast-content and bask for good.
Absent an eschatology,
bright birds are singing,
We are one
with ourselves, the children of the sun,
while fluttering from tree to tree.
Too much is broken, and there will be more
headlines for hopelessness to wallow in:
angrier hurricanes, American
disintegration into civil war.
Sure, we might want to flit away and sing
in private heavens sealed against the news,
but such escape is cheap—as cheap as booze.
What’s hard is to affirm the following:
Despite the bad times now and worse to come,
despite disaster and a crass regime
of lies and thugs, despite the national scam,
I will be conscious. I will not play dumb.
Eyes tracking everything I can redeem,
I will be right here; I will give a damn.
from Poets Respond
October 22, 2017
[ download audio]
Aaron Poochigian: “This poem grew out recent news of California wildfires, hurricanes damaging Texas and Puerto Rico, and the whole political climate of the past year. The affirmative message at the end came out of nowhere—a blessing.”