I. the world ends softly—
the sudden absence of answer.
II. the sky burns in pieces—Beijing first,
then Bangkok. The news is full
of men and women in surgical masks,
suitcoats rimed ash-white.
Children are being kept inside, it informs,
but you catch round faces at the edge
of camera frames, small noses pressed
(how to explain Armageddon
to those little grigori, wide-eyed and guiltless?)
your town gets hit between Nashville
and Kansas City, a few chill-sharp hours
before dawn. you stand in the gathering white,
death dusting your eyelashes.
it’s getting harder to breathe.
III. the cities flicker, fall dark. The nights
become silvercold bright; the milky way
a Jacob’s Ladder—ascending, ascending,
and impassible. Sometimes you see dark shapes
pass across the constellations, slipping
from empty to emptiness.
Their wings blot out the stars.
IV. you forget how to sing.
you forget what it was for.
V. you count your ribs one morning—trace
the crescive struts of them with your
ever-lengthening nails. There is blood
in your teeth you did not put there; war rides
a burned-out red mustang, and his mouth
tastes like the wrong end of a bullet. The pale rider
sits on the end of your bed at night, carving
and sealing shem into your skull, whispering,
the harvest is past.
Under the bloated sun, you tear down the last gods.
It is not enough, this slow monstering—
you have remembered the apple
still lodged in your throat and
you are not saved.
VI. the angels come too late,
feathers crawling with mites and eyes flat
as snakes’. The smell of ozone lingers
in their skin, and glory glory glory sounds
like a punchline.
They promise altars and arks;
the hollow earth, the ascending light.
You will be gold, and gold again.
You are not surprised when their throats
are torn open, revealed to be hollow.
VII. it is cold here at the end of all ages."