What Apocalypse

Gabriella R. Tallmadge


I thought the world might end, there,
the supermarket cart slip sounding off like a racked tin shelf,
and the twenty screaming grackles dotting a nearby bush. 

Prey animals stay alive through fear.

In this life, a man dies and it means nothing
to a blackbird. We hang meaning on them like a gold crucifix.
Should they consider themselves omens,
idols scalloped from an outer space blackness?
They live in no kingdom, but death’s.

“All birds are sick,” my mother once said.

I saw the grackles last night after shutting my eyes.
The light was headed back to the surface of the sun,
ponds of ice relaxed to cold streams.
The birds glowed blue, their eyes gelatinous, after-lit
from watching ice. They pushed off into night like glaciers.
I felt the texture of their wordlessness.

There were so many ways to be alone.

Someone loves us, they must.
I belong to a man, his face finished above me,
his hands a sea enshrouding me. His body on mine
is a wave finishing its form. Each night,

I am pressed deeper into the earth.

Last night, the cold-bitten grasses were unread and still.
They knew all they needed. They were awake
in a kind of eyeless listening, pondering, pausing
only to die. They hooped their blades towards the living earth.

I tunneled further.

The man came back to me. He’s come back alive.
The machine of this month is run on the earth’s electrical urges.
Thunderheads are wired with light.

He says if I lived the way he had, violence would no longer interest me.
I say prey animals stay alive to fight.