“The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” Gen. 6.13
They talked about whether a folio edition
of Dante’s Inferno
gifted by the Lord Mayor of London
signed by Phyllis Wheatley
was an object
or an artifact
and I interrupted to point out
you could take a shit and make an artifact,
as far as an anthropologist was concerned.
The consensus ended up being that
there was likely some distinction
along the lines of time.
I couldn’t get anyone to commit
to a reason why we needed to make this distinction;
I concluded it was simply
to have something to say
in this factory of having something to say.
Meanwhile, in another text
I read that
chunks of ice the size of half of Miami
were calving into the sea, causing
earthquakes that registered 6s and 7s
in parts of Greenland.
When I sit with the fireflies here,
and I am very very quiet, I know
that God lies heavy between all of us
there in that mist in that field.
I think God has always spent time there,
meandered in its simple peace,
like a vacation home or something.
But God feels different this time,
not kind and playful and terrible and huge,
like the first year when I was simply
awed and shocked by the presence —
and vice versa, I suspect;
no, on this third occasion (for,
one year God did not stop by, or
did not let me know they were there),
it was pressing
and firm, like my mother’s hands
guiding me to a lukewarm bath
when a fever had gotten too high;
it was time to face it, this horror I’d been
flirting with, and I was too old
to run away, too old to close my eyes.
I was still allowed to cry, though.
And I did.
In 30 years, much of the coastline will be gone.
Parts of the equatorial band will be so hot
and so humid that moving around in midday for several hours
will cook you from the inside out. Famines
on scales never seen before will
scour the globe; diseases not seen for hundreds of years will be freed by the melting permafrost.
Hundreds and hundreds of millions will die within mere decades.
It will only continue to get worse.
I struggle now to read Othello, Jane Eyre,
to talk about human creativity
as antidote to human suffering
with any real seriousness; does a sugarcane worker
whose heat-induced chronic dehydration
led to untreatable kidney failure
get anything from our collective appreciation
of Pablo Neruda? When our insides are
boiling, will we have need for
Zadie Smith? Transformation will happen
now, poems or no. The horrors
of what we will become
will simply unfold.
I suppose that
will still tell a story,
while there is time for them to be told,
will still write a poem
even with no scholars to
dissect them and make their living sucking
the marrow from their bones.
We will simply feel them as we die,
never stopping to wonder
will they be objects or artifacts?
these stories, these poems
with no one left to read them.
The only conversation left
is how to save ourselves, and
it will be our last,
our direst ode.