Today's poem is by Gregory Fraser

End of Days

There are those who swear it will start with the sun
snapping a fiery whip, lashing the hills with flame,
while others hear men and women shrieking,

being run through by burnished swords of wind,
scalding-hot needles of rain. They say lightning
will slash open the air with its serrated blade,

and thunder gallop like blood through the gash,
spewing steam from its blazing mane,
that a blinding radiance will pour down

the sky's domed walls, painting each town
a terrible, glaring red, stripping trees
and houses bare, and somewhere it is written

that windows will be left hanging
like limpid drapes. I'm not sure if parents
still recite how some will stand at the end of days,

rapt with terror, their stunned faces running off
their faces like tears, blistered arms and legs
wrapped in bandages of pure white heat,

seared in blindfolds of light. Frankly,
I don't care. To me it's nothing more
than fancy run amok. I can't believe the children

will burn like wicks on the shores of molten rivers
(formerly the streets on which they played),
that the drunkard splayed in the gutter, leaning

against the curb-wall, will have his head struck
like a match. No, the stars and planets
will never gather, raise two candescent fists,

and pummel the darkness beyond recognition,
then stretch a tight clean sheet from this horizon
to that. Still, these visions toll like bells inside

my brain, and I can't help but eavesdrop
when someone dreams aloud
of witnessing the visage of god, or some other

lucid shadow, some maker of the void it fills,
hovering the punished plain. I'll never grasp the reason
elders sigh and worry their beards

over prophetic tomes, why the wisest of women
can be found at tables lit by a single candle,
thinking its tiny torch our collective future

writ small. Yet to hear the haunting yowl
of the unspayed cat in spring, walking
her fertility's coals, or to pass a cluster of teens

puffing on cigarettes, and watch the halos
of their smoke rings warp, then vanish
into nowhere, is to gain a flickering sense

of what it suddenly might mean
to have been handed down a tale that binds
people together, twisting the many

strands of their mortal fears
into a rope that might be lowered when they fall
into the dark abysses of their making.

It's to have some notion why
the handful of survivors, scattered across
the deserted land, are predicted to go crazy.

finding it impossible to face the stark
field sprawled before their sight, and shooting
themselves toward heaven like flares.

Copyright © 2003 Gregory Fraser All rights reserved
from Strange Pietá
Texas Tech University Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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