Poetry for Your Personal Apocalypse: Crying for the Dead

Morning spring

This is one of my favorite poems from the new collection. I wrote this on the morning after the world was supposed to end, after learning that a friend was killed by a drunk driver, and it seems to encapsulate the whole idea of the personal apocalypse pretty effectively.

I know there’s no use crying for the dead
or singing for the dead
or praising the dead.
No use begging the dead for forgiveness
to buy ourselves some right to this stolen grief.
Waking up in the sunny world,
on the right side of the veil,
on the right side of this moment,
a thin, impenetrable wall erects itself between us
and even the sound of our wailing can’t shake it.
And with what voice would they answer?

All the little sounds of the living:
in the silence, the breath —
the wet breath of sleep,
the sigh of sheets,
your hand sliding between them
and the pillow.
The world is ending every day.

It would have been romantic at least
to die in the apocalypse
to be among the masses of humanity
brought together by our anguish
obliterated in one ecstatic moment
all of us wearing “I Heart Earth” t-shirts
vowing we will never forget
when forgetting’s far beyond our reach
all of us spray painting hopeful graffiti
on the cell walls of the sky.

In a quiet house
entertaining
the sounds of the living
the creaking floor
the rumbling kettle
just before the boil
coffee grinds shuffling along
to the bottom of the pot.
Everything whispers in the morning,
and listening is a privilege.

All sounds are sounds for the living.
All sights are sights for the living.
At this banquet of the senses we feast daily.
And they?
Are there hungry ghosts waiting behind the curtain?
We leave out bits for them, and they do not take.
We offer small treasures, a little bit of shine.
If they partake, they leave no sign.
We blow our smoke into their air
as praise and sacrifice
even knowing there is no need.
We make our offerings.
The dead become kings.

Apocalypse Poetry: From Satire to Sincerity
Charlotte Joko Beck on Authority

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