Last Days

Rain and ashes seal my lips
                                          Allen Ginsberg

In the season of drought and hurricane,
this stiff earth cracks and the spawned
eggs of mosquitoes burst into a plague
of coughs and side stitches. Every wild bird
predicts a plague of woes. All around us
the whisper is of “Last Days”, the coming
of the end, and the tyranny of present danger.

December 21, 2005, Marvin Williams,
ex-Drill Sergeant and born-again Arkansas
cotton-picker, remembers the morning he
was bumped from the airliner that flamed
over Lockerbie. Blessed, he says, trying
to calculate the debts he still owes.
Why was he kept; for what?

The dragonflies are dying,
and in the suburbs the pandemic
runs amok. Our bodies betray us
and the summer’s heat warms
the sea, as deep as plummet sounds.
In the desert it rains in deluge,
while the glaciers vanish from mountains.
The stars die a million years ago.

On a beach in Bahia,
a congregation in white descends
to the water’s edge, singing. The surf lips
the disembowelled carcasses of small
animals. A rash of flowers eddies
on the swollen surface like a garland of prayer.

Better go to the house of mourning
than to the house of feasting.

From WHEELS (Peepal Tree Press, 2011) by Kwame Dawes. Copyright © 2011 by Kwame Dawes. Used with the permission of Peepal Tree Press.