Everyone was writing a dystopian novel,

and everyone had a podcast or at least a blog,

and every phrase that seemed like a good band name

turned out to be a band name already,

and the punishment for information

was more information, as was the reward,

and through almost an entire week,

real-time images of an actual black hole

scintillated around the globe

while we debated the particulars of attribution,

and we were all incompatibly lonely

as we outsourced our disambiguation,

each of us gazing into a palmed incandescence

instead of the starry heavens above

or the reeking entrails of gutted sheep,

and every time we bought groceries

we re-titrated the degree of toxins

we were willing to ingest,

but there were still pockets of local solace

scattered amidst the impending,

so it was possible to savor sushi

on the same day you declined to discard

an unfinished bottle of Tramadol—

how long would analgesics be available?—

and because we were ever more achingly cognizant

of the textured, fretted, speckled, tender underside of things,

art was either prophetic elegy or elegiac prophecy,

and for some of us, the projected time of collapse

corresponded to our own natural end,

though Will I still be alive when the world is over?

asked the nine-year-old as his mother marked

his birthday inches on the wall,

and in speaking of our situation there was social protocol

which consisted of reticence and restraint,

though sequence continued to coexist with simultaneity,

and the Lost and Found ceased not its overflow,

and newborns persevered in the struggle

to inhabit their own flailing,

and the young continued shining unaware,

and breath still wandered through our bodies

like a wickless flame,

everything no less unlikely and irreducible

in this dense serendipitous connotative clumpy world

clotted with decisions we hadn’t noticed

until we found ourselves together on the other side,

and what was that just barely within our audible range,

the sound of events becoming retroactively inevitable,

or had we failed to notice

a single moment of no-taking-back,

when the nascent future flew out,

slick, new-hatched, through a chink, a crack,

a fissure, the proverbially yawning gap?

Now there we were moving swiftly,

no, suspended inside a momentum

whose shape we could not trace,

and all the algorithms were about

how we were more the same than different,

more different than the same,

and our pre-extinction consciousness

was just as inaccessible

as our pre-digital consciousness,

and any soul aspiring to reincarnate

would have to aim for someplace in the past—

how crowded it would be with multitudes

crammed into each of the much fewer

available human bodies back in the day!—

but were we, as a species, old or young?

Wasn’t it only recently we’d all nestled

in the center of celestial crystalline spheres?

Now that which had been submerged was rising up,

and that which had stood high was going under,

and the little ice chapel in Helsinki

was thawing at the same rate it evaporated,

and the leafy places of the earth were limned with flame,

so why hadn’t the teams been deployed

to peel away all the shadows, fold them tenderly

for cold storage lest they warp and scald?

Now the simplest of greetings meant,

Are we still here?

like children waking up through the night,

tiptoeing to the window to see if it’s snowing.



Claire Bateman is the author of Wonders of the Invisible World, forthcoming from 42 Miles Books, and eight other poetry books: Scape (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2016), Locals (Serving House Books, 2012), Coronology (Etruscan Press, 2010), Leap (New Issues, 2005), Clumsy (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2003), Friction (Eighth Mountain Poetry Prize, 1998), At the Funeral of the Ether (Ninety-Six Press, 1998), and The Bicycle Slow Race (Wesleyan University Press, 1991). She has been awarded Individual Artist Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the Surdna Foundation, as well as the New Millennium Writing Award (twice) and two Pushcart Prizes, and has taught at the Greenville Fine Arts Center, Clemson University.

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