Letter to Noah’s Wife

You are never mentioned on Ararat
or elsewhere, but I know a woman’s hand
in salvation when I see it. Lately,
I’m torn between despair and ignorance.
I’m not a vegetarian, shop plastic,
use an air conditioner. Is this what happens
before it all goes fluvial? Do the selfish
grow self-conscious by the withering
begonias? Lately, I worry every black dress
will have to be worn to a funeral.
New York a bouillon, eroded filigree.
Anything but illness, I beg the plagues,
but shiny crows or nuclear rain.
Not a drop in London May through June.
I bask in the wilt by golden hour light.
Lately, only lately, it is late. Tucking
our families into the safeties of the past.
My children, will they exist by the time
it’s irreversible? Will they live
astonished at the thought of ice
not pulled from the mouth of a machine?
Which parent will be the one to break
the myth; the Arctic wasn’t Sisyphus’s
snowy hill. Noah’s wife, I am wringing
my hands not knowing how to know
and move forward. Was it you
who gathered flowers once the earth
had dried? How did you explain the light
to all the animals?

Related Poems

from "Apocalipsixtlán" [5. Signs of the End of the World]

The right path. The phrase echoes in our heads
     as we travel west, away from the crack in the earth.
There is no way around it. Some say it connects
     Tierra del Fuego to the North Pole and cuts deep
down to the core—a wound that lets the heat escape
     each minute of the day. When all of the Américas
became a desert, dividing coast from coast, those
     caught in the middle either sunk into the crevice
or sunk into despair. The right path. That’s what
     Those Who Came Before tried to sell us before hell

rose from the bowels of the planet to burn the air
     in every lung. When the animals began to flee
and the birds headed east, we should have guessed
     the doom had come upon us then. But the right path
was not to panic but to study these changes, discuss
    policy, hold town meetings—negotiate. Catastrophe
was just another balloon to deflate. By the time
     the ground beneath our feet began to shake, it
were already too late to save our cities, which had
     turned to liquid we couldn’t drink. Next came thirst.

What comedy to witness humans think they’re
     in control of anything. The new collectives with
the old were just as tired and useless as the past.
     Their lifetime of mistake and misdirection was what
had killed us. Why repeat the leadership? Why
     allow the yesterday to roll its ancient wheels
into the present? Oh preachers of pretense, we
     silenced you. Oh teachers of nonsense, we erased
you. The future is ours, you all said, and the future
     arrived, bleak and black, but with much less room

to move around. A future without windows or doors,
     and one ugly hole in the ground that offers no escape.
What future is this? We asked. And Those Who Came
     Before simply shrugged their shoulders and shook
their heads. When the gas discharged from the opening
     we smelled the answer—sour odor of crimes against
the land and the centuries of death that had been buried
     there. Out flew centuries of damage and buried bodies
to hover above us like magpies shrieking: The crack
     in the earth, it is us. The crack in the earth, it is ours.

Ice Would Suffice

How swift, how far
the sea
carries a body from shore.

Empires fail, species are lost,
spotted frogs
and tufted puffins forsaken.

After eons of fauna and flora, hominids have stood
for mere years
baffled brains atop battered shoulders.

In a murky blanket of heavens
an icy planet
made of diamond spins.

Our sun winks like the star
it was
billions of years ago, without ambition.

We bury bodies in shallow dirt, heedless of lacking space
or how long
our makeshift planet will host us.
 

The Conditional

Say tomorrow doesn't come.
Say the moon becomes an icy pit.
Say the sweet-gum tree is petrified.
Say the sun's a foul black tire fire.
Say the owl's eyes are pinpricks.
Say the raccoon's a hot tar stain.
Say the shirt's plastic ditch-litter.
Say the kitchen's a cow's corpse.
Say we never get to see it: bright
future, stuck like a bum star, never
coming close, never dazzling.
Say we never meet her. Never him.
Say we spend our last moments staring
at each other, hands knotted together,
clutching the dog, watching the sky burn.
Say, It doesn't matter. Say, That would be
enough. Say you'd still want this: us alive,
right here, feeling lucky.