Disappointments of the Apocalypse


[I'm reading Good Omens for book club this month and this poem reminds me of it.  Also I like yhe theology.]

Once warring factions agreed upon the date
and final form the apocalypse would take,
and whether dogs and cats and certain trees
deserved to sail, and if the dead would come or be left
a forwarding address, then opposing soldiers
met on ravaged plains to shake hands
and postulate the exact shade
of the astral self--some said lavender,
others gray. And physicists rocketed
copies of the decree to paradise
in case God had anything to say,
the silence that followed being taken
for consent, and so citizens
readied for celestial ascent.

Those who hated the idea stayed indoors
till the appointed day. When the moon
clicked over the sun like a black lens
over a white eye, they stepped out
onto porches and balconies to see
the human shapes twist and rise
through violet sky and hear trees uproot
with a sound like enormous zippers
unfastening. And when the last grassblades
filled the air, the lonely vigilantes fell
in empty fields to press their bodies
hard into dirt, hugging their own outlines.

Then the creator peered down from his perch,
as the wind of departing souls tore the hair
of those remaining into wild coronas,
and he mourned for them as a father
for defiant children, and he knew that each
small skull held, if not some vision
of his garden, then its aroma of basil
and tangerine washed over by the rotting sea.
They alone sensed what he'd wanted
as he first struck his shovel into clay
and flung the planets over his shoulder,
or used his thumbnail to cut smiles and frowns
on the first blank faces. Even as the saints
arrived to line before his throne singing
and a wisteria poked its lank blossoms
through the cloudbank at his feet,
he trained his gaze on the deflating globe
where the last spreadeagled Xs clung like insects,
then vanished in puffs of luminous smoke,

which traveled a long way to sting his nostrils,
the journey lasting more than ten lifetimes.
A mauve vine corkscrewed up from the deep
oblivion, carrying the singed fume
of things beautiful, noble, and wrong.

- Mary Karr, from The Devil's Tour (x)

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