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Before the Crash

— Sarah Burke

That winter, we learned to be doomers,
passing a joint on the cracked stoop

as snowflakes hissed on our coats,
blanketed rooftops like ash.

If they sparkled, we didn’t notice.
Old men on the bus said,

Smile, sweetheart, ​and we saw
crops torched on the stalk, glaciers

unraveled like yarn and said,
No thank you​. On the cinema’s

blank canvas, wolves
pawed through skyscrapers

eaten by moss and flowers. Zombies
floated through cities, boats of blood,

cataract, and voice. We were waiting
to be tested, waiting to crawl

from the wreckage leaner, tougher,
wiser. We waited among salt trucks

and church bells, radio parts and barrels
of chicken feed, huts of quilt

and branch hidden in the woods.
When the time came, could we skin

a rabbit or a deer, walk for days
and camp in the soot, in the snow?

For the time being, roof, heat,
cardamom tea. For the time being,

laptop and wireless, mattress
rumpled on the floor, the glow

of Carl Sagan’s ship blown like seed
among the galaxies, gold-rust

palette of his clothes just like
our fathers used to wear.

His gentle voice lulled us to sleep,
to worlds where the air was sweeter—

shores of the cosmic ocean,
billions and billions of stars
.


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