Paul Guest

First Narrowly Averted Apocalypse

Once upon a time I knew

that whales had ears.

That in them were bones,

and by them the tight spiral of time

could be gauged. I knew

the names of many stars

and the myths in which they glowed

like cold, dead fire. Once,

I trembled before love like fire.

Once. O sad heart, what to say

of this cold air, this darkness,

this will to credulous harm,

and the suspicion that California

is another world entire?

That there is in this poem a world,

a mostly empty train, darkness

and mountains and, sure, danger,

is fitting. That there is a fat guy

named Steven Seagal who

doubtlessly, breathlessly, knows

many ways to visit martial death

upon evildoers, well, this, too,

is fitting. Some nights, so

very late my bones seem to weep

with hard pain, I stare up

at the ceiling, in the direction

of God and the angels and all

objects which in their orbits are decaying.

I don’t exactly pray for anything

or anyone and now

you know my selfish secret,

dear reader. Look,

snow on the ground and toxic

despair and a nuclear bomb,

somewhere, and a villain

who looks a lot like Eric Bogosian

in a justly maligned role

and the wind which is lousy

with solitude.



“First Narrowly Averted Apocalypse” is from Because Everything is Terrible (Diode Editions, 2018).