“To Keep the Day” by Stephen Kampa

Stephen Kampa


What can we say? It took so little time
There at the end: we watched a record earthquake
Bury schoolhouses full of silent children,
Three hurricanes demolish our vacation
Spots—hectares of trees flattened like slicked hair,
Cities in the Atlantic half-Atlantised—
And epic wildfires conflagrate a state
To slideshow pics of slag-gray parks on Slate,
And those were just the isolate disasters,
Ones we were glad weren’t happening to us.
Our autumn bottomed out at ninety-plus
Degrees that year; we died from eating lettuce
And spinach, apples, cheese, and milk; we shot
Each other with our stockpiled guns for reasons
As elemental as inclement seasons;
We even had an asteroid near-miss—
“It Could Impact Next Year!”—as though all this
Were not enough, as though we didn’t know
What this all meant when emptily we watched
A paper bag elected president.

But there were things to do: diverting apps,
Web recipes for perfect Caesar wraps,
Hot singles trends on iTunes and on Tinder,
A Netflix mail-bomb flick (Return to Cinder)
Rotten Tomatoes called “both dull and tasteless,”
Bevies of beauties—clotheless, witless, waistless—
To aid in masturbation, and our regnant
Divas so publicly, divinely pregnant …
Is it a shock with so much on our hands—
The flash mobs to promote our favorite brands,
The BOGO drinks at joints with open mics—
We flailed? So little life, so many likes.
We googled “moon like blood.” We skimmed the hits.
Our search results had strange prerequisites,
And though we double-clicked on “The End of the Age,”
We only made it partway down the page.
We saw it all—that was our paradigm—
But we saw everything, and all the time.

What else was there to do? The night before,
We toggled our alarm clocks from the news
To triplicated beeps, popped one more beer,
Made sure to bolt the door, and went to bed
When we no longer could resist the yawning.
We’d get the gist by reading the reviews.
When that day came, to keep that day from dawning,
We stirred and chose the last thing we could choose,
Glad—grateful, even—someone had designed
A be-all, end-all button. Groan. Stretch. Snooze.

from Rattle #64, Summer 2019


Stephen Kampa: “Lately I have been very aware that poetry is one way we tell the future what it felt like to be in the present. The past two years in particular have felt decidedly apocalyptic to me, and I have been wondering what explanation we might offer the future for the way we chose to conduct ourselves during a difficult, perhaps even crucial, epoch. I suspect none of our explanations will comfort them.” (web)

Rattle Logo