Poems For the End of the World

By Scout Satterfield

The graffiti was placed by a group who wanted to cover up the fact that the walls of its city were crumbling down.
Without making it overt that they were a legitimate group, responsible for the maintenance of the infrastructure.
Soon enough, people who called themselves “artists”, believed it was a movement.
And that’s how the walls of this city became patched up with words of righteous rebellion and feminist sentiments.
Free of charge.

***

Cloud-seeding
Is a government-led
Tactical maneuver
The artificial clouds fill the entire space
The rain falls heavy
Into the publics’ eyes
They cannot look up
They cannot see past the clouds
For if they could
The army of drones
Hovering just above their heads
May disturb them
And a disturbed public
Is more likely to foster
Rebellious sentiments.

***

The deaf man can’t hear the sirens
So, when he wakes up in the morning
He takes his time getting dressed and having breakfast
When he walks outside
He is only a bit surprised that there is no one around
It is a Saturday morning after all
So people could be sleeping in
He walks to the park
The sirens wail
People watch him from their windows
Shocked at his defiance
As the end moves through the streets
Like a wave of forever-change
The deaf man sits on his park bench,
Watching the silent birds sing.

Is the world really ending,
If you can’t hear the sirens?

***

One euro for a flame
Otherwise it will be too dark
For God to see you

Roll a joint
Light a match
Smoke it on the windowsill

Experience twice the candle light

***

They don’t know what will happen.
Maybe the buildings will burn
Maybe the page will rip
Maybe the baby will cry
Maybe the lights will just go out
It doesn’t have to be so earth-shattering an ending.
In fact, the less infrastructural damage, the better.
Rather than the destruction of the world,
The destruction of the mind
Is much more manageable.
But none of them are looking in.

***

I’ll meet you in the garden

Forgetting the vastness of the garden

I arrive at the garden
I walk up the hill
Down the other side
Into the maze of the wood
Through evening tea tables in flowery patches
Past statues of men I don’t remember
Endless figures hidden in shadows
Just out of sight in the trees

Affogami nella vasca

I can’t find him
He can’t find me

Un giardino solitario

Artwork by Hope Gangloff

Life Ahead

Is it possible
to breathe fresh air through photos?
Asking for my kids.

Colorful ball pit
Children will hate to swim in:
A sea of plastic

A sea canary
And underwater duets
Folktale materials

“Tornado Earth,” by Ian Priest
Mixed media sculpture.

Artwork by Ian Priest

MOM CAVE

“Mom has been acting a little strange lately. We can all agree.”

Suzanne stood on the talking stool in the centre of the treehouse. The talking stool had three legs and wobbled dangerously if you didn’t spread your weight right, but when you stood on it, nobody dared to interrupt you. It was for serious business, and in a house with six kids, sometimes you needed to take a risk to be heard.

Suzanne was still wearing her school uniform, and one of her pigtails had come out, giving her a dangerous, unkempt air. She was standing under the flashlight we’d hung with a shoelace from the ceiling and it cast dramatic shadows across her face as it twirled. The second-youngest kid, Arthur, was a little afraid of her, so he was hiding behind the frayed curtain that covered a big crack in the wall. The baby burbled stupidly in the corner. The rest of us sat in a circle around her, on upended crates that had once been filled with apples. Suzanne was one of the middle children, but she had the respect of even the eldest, because she could talk like a grown up. Most of us murmured our agreement, there was something different about Mom.

“Hmm, I don’t know. Is she really acting that weird?”

That was David, another middle child. David had wispy hair and watery eyes, and he liked to say the unpopular opinion, but was always surprised when we beat him up for it, or locked him out of meetings. Suzanne gave him a withering look.

“You’re stupider than the baby if you haven’t noticed a change. Haven’t you seen her, walking out to the car at night and just sitting, locked in there for hours? Or that she comes home later and later each evening, smelling like beer?”

If any of us had failed to notice those things, we weren’t about to admit it. We nodded along. Suzanne seemed to grow taller.

“And haven’t you seen her going down to the basement with tape-measures and IKEA magazines? Do any of you realize what she’s up to?”

“Maybe she’s finally building us a play-room?”

“She’s putting the baby’s room down there?”

“She’s buying more bookshelves?”

Suzanne held up a hand, and we all stopped talking.

“I heard her talking on the phone to Marissa Claire.”

We groaned. Marissa Claire watched us all from under her pencil-thin pointy eyebrows whenever she came to visit. She was always making jokes about how nobody could’ve convinced her to have so many kids.

Suzanne continued, “Mom is creating a Mom-Cave downstairs. We won’t be allowed down there anymore. It’s going to be a space just for Moms or Marissa Claires.”

We all stared at her. This was news. Mom wanted a cave? Why?

“I have a theory,” she said, “I’ve been reading and I think Marissa Claire is a vampire.”

Under the dangling flashlight, with the sun already set and the wind gently tugging the October branches, Suzanne looked deadly serious. I felt myself shiver; someone coughed. Arthur sprang out from behind the curtain and leapt straight into the eldest’s lap, almost knocking him over.

“There’s no such thing as vampires, is there?” he asked in his warbling four-year-old voice.

But the eldest simply looked to Suzanne for the answer.

“I know you’re afraid of me, Arthur,” she said, “but you’re old enough to know now. I’m not what you should be afraid of.”

We all watched her with wide eyes.

“Marissa Claire isn’t our biggest problem either. The reason Mom is acting so strange, is because she’s slowly becoming a vampire too.”

Now that was harder to believe. Mom, our Mom? The same Mom who taught us to ride bikes and tie our shoes? Who went to our parent-teacher nights and coached our soccer games? 

Suzanne continued,“Think about it. What else needs a cave but a bat? What else goes out at night, and hangs out in dingy places looking for prey? Mom is under a curse, and once she builds the Mom-cave, the transformation will be complete.”

“What should we do?” I whispered.

“We have to reverse the curse. And banish Marissa Claire from the house forever. And most of all, we can’t let the Mom-Cave be built.”

The next day, Marissa Claire came over, and she and Mom sat in the living room with stacks of paint swatches and home decorating magazines. Us kids were supposed to be watching TV, but we took turns spying on them instead.

“It’s going to be so great to get away from the old nag once your basement is finished. You know I’m going to be hiding out here all the time,” Marissa Claire said.

“Yeah, I mean, I think I deserve a little recognition. It’ll be nice.”

“Women need to be able to be women, even in a family.”

Marissa Claire handed Mom a rolled-up poster. She unrolled it halfway, and I saw the naked torso of a very muscular man in a firefighter uniform over her shoulder. My mouth dropped open. 

Mom gasped, “Missy! You’re terrible. You know my husband would throw a fit.” 

Mom tried to push the poster back into the woman’s hands.

“Well, who says he’s allowed down there? It’s supposed to be your space.”

I raced upstairs to report back to my siblings.

“It’s time for phase one,” Suzanne said.

We asked Mom if we could go to the playground, and trooped out of the house soon after. Mom didn’t make sure we wore scarves, even though it was a chilly day, so the feeling in our little group was morose. The eldest zipped our jackets up to our chins, and insisted that David wore a hat, but it wasn’t the same. Luckily, Mom didn’t ask us to bring the baby.

We arrived at the church, and Suzanne passed us each a Tupperware before she walked up to the front and tugged on the door. It was locked. We split up, each looking for a door or window that would allow us inside. David found it and we all raced over to a stained-glass window that was slightly ajar. Suzanne pushed it all the way open, and we tumbled inside one-by-one. We hadn’t been to church since last Easter, and I was immediately hit by the familiar heavy-perfume-and-dust smell that seeped up from the carpets.

“Find the Holy Water and the free rosaries!” Suzanne ordered.

We knew that the church gave out white plastic rosaries sometimes, and assumed they would be up for grabs somewhere. The Holy Water was easy to find, it was in a big bowl at the front of the church, for dipping your hand into. We each filled our Tupperware until the bowl was empty. The rosaries were a challenge though.

“We need them, to tie Mom up and reverse the curse,” Suzanne insisted.

We split up and looked everywhere, on each pew, in the supply closets and under the kneelers. I decided to check the altar. I climbed the steps and checked beside the mic stand, and then under the white cloth. Then I saw the gold box where they kept the communion. There probably weren’t any rosaries in there, but I decided to open it, it couldn’t hurt to check.

“Stop! Thief!” a voice boomed through the church.

We all tried to scatter. David dove under a pew, Arthur shimmied behind the statue of Mother Mary, the eldest shut himself in a supply closet and I sprinted for the open window. Only Suzanne stayed calm.

“We’re not stealing. We’re looking for the free rosaries.”

So, the priest sat us down, and we told him all about the Mom Cave and our vampire theory.

“This sounds very serious. You kids were right to come to the church, you’re not safe.”

My heart sank. So, it was true.

“We’re planning on tying her up with rosaries and sprinkling her with Holy Water,” Suzanne said.

The priest nodded his approval, “I can see you’ve done your research.”

Suzanne was right. Mom was turning into a monster.

The priest gave each of us a rosary and sent us home with the reminder to pray more often.

A few nights later, Suzanne woke me up and we slipped away from the others to watch Mom through the front window. She had a suitcase with her, even though there was no trip planned that we knew about. We watched her load the suitcase into the back of the car, turn it on, and sit inside without driving.

For some reason, my eyes were filling up with tears, “Why doesn’t she just go?”

“That suitcase is full of Marissa Claire’s mind-controlling tokens. Mom is just trying to get rid of them,” Suzanne assured me in a whisper.

Another voice spoke before I could, “Or maybe it’s full of empty vials of blood, because she’s already a vampire.”

David was standing behind us in his rumpled pyjamas. Something about his pouty mouth and stupid slippers made me angry. I lunged for him, but Suzanne held me back.  

“We have to be strong,” she said.

“We should have done the ritual sooner. What are we waiting for?” I snapped.

“Tomorrow, it’s a harvest moon,” Suzanne said.  

Phase two of the plan was capturing and overpowering Mom, tying her down with rosaries and sprinkling her with Holy Water. But things did not go according to plan. That morning, Dad went off to work as usual while Mom made breakfast. We were all supposed to go to school, so we walked to the bus stop with our backpacks, but as soon as Mom drove off with the baby we snuck back inside the house. It was time to create the trap.

I can’t tell you exactly how the trap was supposed to work, it came right out of Suzanne’s imagination, but it involved laundry baskets, Christmas lights and white sheets. She ordered us around for an hour, assembling it, and then we heard footsteps approaching. Someone rang the doorbell. Did Mom forget her keys? Did she know we were at home? Arthur wandered over to the door, despite our collective “Noooo,” and opened it.

A man in a bright yellow polo shirt was standing at the door. He glanced into the chaos inside our house, and smiled brightly at Arthur.

“Is your Mommy or Daddy home?”

Arthur quaked with terror at his mistake. We could all hear Suzanne’s mind whirring with fury.

“I’m here to deliver some furniture. Hello? Is there an adult home?”

One wrong step from the IKEA man could spring the whole trap. Suzanne popped out from her hiding spot, causing the man to jump.

“She wants it all on the front lawn.”

“The front…?”

 “You heard me.”

The man must have recognized the same dangerous power in her that we had, because he unloaded everything onto the front lawn, and had her sign for it even though she barely reached his elbow in height.

“This stuff must all be for the Mom Cave,” the eldest said.  

“We’ve got to get rid of it!” Suzanne raced onto the lawn, beckoning to the rest of us “quickly, we have to take it to the pond and sink it.”

We dragged the red wagon out from the garage and got to work stacking the boxes on top. It was heavy work, but if Mom came home and IKEA was on the front lawn she would know something was wrong. Once we had stacked it all, we wheeled it carefully down the driveway.

Mom was standing on the sidewalk, holding the baby. Her car was parked a little bit away. For a moment, we stared at her, and she stared back at us.

“What are you all doing? Why aren’t you at school?”

 We were caught. It was over.

 “What is all of that stuff? Is that… is that my IKEA order? What on earth?”

David started to cry. The eldest picked up Arthur, who buried his face in his jacket sleeve. I could’ve sworn Mom’s teeth were so long that they were poking the top of her lip. Mom wiped her cheek with her sleeve. Had she been drinking blood, and she was trying to wipe it away? Only Suzanne remained calm.

“We thought they probably delivered to the wrong house, you know how sometimes the neighbour gets our mail,” she said.

Mom’s face became a mask of fury.

“That doesn’t explain why you aren’t in school.”

None of us could explain that, and none of us could explain the mess we’d made inside. Mom identified Suzanne as our ringleader, probably because we kept glancing at her for instructions.

“Suzanne, I should’ve known. Go upstairs and wait for me on my bed. The rest of you had better help me clean all of this up.” Mom said.

Without Suzanne, we didn’t know how to use the trap. Mom made us bring the IKEA boxes downstairs, and put everything back where we’d found it. Worst of all, she found the Tupperware’s full of Holy Water under our beds, and rosaries stashed in the bathroom cabinet. When we didn’t answer what they were for, she dumped the water down the sink and tossed the rosaries into the trash, then locked us in our rooms. That evening, Mom didn’t make us dinner and we could hear her and Marissa Claire playing loud music in the basement while they assembled the Mom Cave. I looked out my window at the harvest moon, which glowed orange while my stomach growled. Someone unlocked my door. It was Suzanne. Everyone else was standing behind her, and she was even holding the baby.

“It’s time to go. We tried our best,” she said. 

We were about to reach the front door when we heard Dad’s heavy footsteps behind us.

“What are you kids up to?”

We looked at him over our shoulders and said, “Nothing!”        

He shrugged and wandered into the kitchen, probably looking for a snack, wondering when it was time for dinner.

Photograph by Edward Steichen

ruin

how many hands did god
cut – makers
of coffeebeans & compost &
money, mahals
how many hands 
fell

left carpets 
of wool & ice & persian delight &
skin severed; centerpiece 
shimmering

in the sun, 
my hand reveals the brushwork
the veins & their decisions
i have written, here

my wonder & my questions
the stones i have thrown 
in god’s koi 
pond watching for ripple 
to sunburst upon 

this ruin 
i stand 
before.


Kadalamma speaks to me

Everytime I meet the sea I call Kadalamma at the Corniche, it calls me her kadal-kutti, her sea child, floating inbetween the gaps of land. Kadalamma says I will come back to her. Kadalamma came to me through my Ammuma’s flowing voice, the malayali folklore of a sea mother who is as mothers are: benevolence and rampage all in one. My hair’s waves are not the only way I am water, she speaks through the moonlit breeze combing my hair. My Amma is the storm of which I am the eye. My ancestral mothers bled seas before they bled life. Kadalamma carries the women whose clothes she soaks to protect their children from the fires of this funeral pyre earth. Kadalamma says we forgot we have come from her. We forget no fire we have learned to make, no earth we break, no air we poison, will destroy Kadalamma. We forget these borders we burn on the edges of the earth cannot hold her fury.

Image by Nada Al Mosa, “It’s Raining”

Star of Night

On December 21st, 2089, when the red star Betelgeuse—10th brightest in the sky—unexpectedly exploded in a blazing supernova, scientists told us we had nothing to fear. Our planet was too far away for this explosion to harm, much less destroy, life on earth, and to enjoy the show. The solstice had never been so spectacular.

“A once in a lifetime occurrence,” asserted one talking head on the yak circuit.

Another intoned, “We are thrilled to have a nearby supernova to study.”

And so the scientific community was abuzz. And this was understandable. Not every day a giant red star blows up in your neighbourhood. The problem was, the supernova had lit up the night sky—a dull yellow glow that obscured the stars but didn’t quite duplicate daylight. Indeed, the night sky was expected to be lit up for at least several months. And while scientists said no physical harm would come of it, no one could honestly predict the psychological ramifications.

“So much for the Christmas lights this year,” my partner Felicia lamented as we stood on our snow-covered lawn and stared at the sky.

“They still look nice,” I offered.

 Felicia shrugged. “It’s just weird. Makes me feel weird, and small.”

She had something there. The supernova had somehow dwarfed us all, and turned our little worlds upside down. Hard to explain, but perhaps the lack of a black sky dotted with stars toyed with our psychic equilibrium. For instance, people were staying up all night to watch the sky, much to the detriment of pace and productivity. Those were the two keystones of The New Society, as we called ourselves after the economic and societal convulsions of the past half century. Many problems had been solved, but many still remained. Perhaps the supernova would shine a light on our emotional and spiritual deficiencies.

My next door neighbour Peter waved to us from his window. His Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer sweater made us smile. Not that we found it charming, but we knew that Peter expected us to find it charming. He had lost something when his wife Izzy left him for the Martian colonies. It was difficult to talk to him now, this once chipper man, he had whittled into cliches about weather and hockey. His reaction to the supernova had been singularly peculiar. He believed it was all a fraud, a great hoax perpetrated by subversive oligarchs in charge of the Martian operations. He believed that Betelgeuse was still intact and that the night sky was lit up by giant Martian spotlights.

We went inside. We kicked off our boots and fleeces. Glittering in the corner of the living room, the Christmas tree gave me pause. It never failed to strike me when I looked at it. Perhaps it was the reach back into childhood, the memories, the twinkling nostalgia. But on this Christmas Eve, it felt different. It felt weird.

“What is it?” Felicia asked, as she wrapped herself in a blanket on the sofa.

“I don’t know,” I said, “things feel off.”

 Felicia chuckled. “No kidding!”

I smiled at her. Of course. Things didn’t just feel off, they were off. I mean, a supernova next door. Nothing to sneeze at. And Betelgeuse gone. That was messed up.

“Wonder how Santa Claus will manage tonight,” I said.

“Geez,” Felicia said, “you figure it would be easy-peasy with the sky all lit up like that. Unless he needs stars to navigate.”

“Hm, never thought of that.”

“Peter has totally lost it, eh?”

“Poor bastard. Loneliness will do that.”

I wandered into the kitchen. I felt like having a snack but was torn between savoury and sweet. I decided on hot chocolate and fitted the pod into the brewing unit. In seconds, a mug of frothy hot chocolate awaited me. I threw in a few miniature marshmallows. Felicia put on some Christmas music: Vince Guaraldi. Perfect. I blew on my mug and glanced out the kitchen window, nodding to the music, but with no feeling. It was almost ten pm. It didn’t look like daylight out there, but it also didn’t look like night. Christmas lights glowed faintly in the neighbourhood; nativity scenes and more kitschy displays were fired up. But the velvet loveliness of night was missing, the stars, the snow shining in the moonlight, the magic. I carefully sipped the hot chocolate.

Just then, I saw Peter in his silly sweater hopping around the side of his house, kicking up snow, almost like he was playfully chasing a child. He was wearing furry white boots and these thick tinted goggles that made him look loonier than he was. At one point he slapped his hands on his hips, looked up at the sky and started laughing. I felt a wave of pity for him.

Felicia came up behind me, put her arms under my armpits, and squeezed.

“Hey,” I said.

“Hey.”

“He’s really lost it.”

“Peter?”

“Yeah. Must be tough during the holidays.”

 “I think the supernova put him over.”

“Don’t ever leave me for the Martian colonies,” I said, more firmly than I intended.

Felicia squeezed me. 

“Now that you mention it.”

We both laughed. I sipped my hot chocolate.

“How about something stronger,” Felicia said. “It is the festive season.”

“What do you have in mind?”

She opened the cupboard where we kept the liquor and selected a bottle of Canada Club.

“The hard stuff,” I said.

“Reminds me of Christmas with my dad and uncles. They used to hammer bottles of it over the holidays.”

I glanced out the window again. Peter was gone. Felicia took out two shot glasses and filled them with the amber whisky.

“Here’s to Betelgeuse,” she said, as we clinked glasses. “Here’s to Betelgeuse,” I repeated, taking the whisky down in one go, feeling thankful and sad and weird at the same time.

Painting by Hannah Fulton

The End of the World Poem

By Scout Satterfield

The date for the end of the world was chosen arbitrarily.

Only a few people were listening when the announcement was made. This is to be expected because the time of the announcement corresponded to the season finale of some popular television series people had been waiting over a year for.

When the end of the world was just a few hours away, some people began to appreciate things they hadn’t before, such as doorknobs and pen caps.

When the end of the world came,
Caged birds sang and sang until their vocal chords ripped. When this happened, they became truly alone.

Some people were dressed for the event, others weren’t and when they realized they weren’t, they became embarrassed and rushed home to change.

Houseplants resented their loss of legs, and stared in want at their watering cans.

Television networks went bankrupt at their sudden severe drop in viewership, and several CEO’s threw their TVs off rooftops, and then their own bodies.

Cookies revolted when they realized they had been forgotten in their ovens, and in revenge, they burned down many a suburban neighborhood.

The piano learned to play itself but for the first time had no audience.

One man had a normal day, but became depressed over his lack of adventure.

The day after the end of the world, an emotional support group was organized to help with the trauma of the event. It was sparsely attended and it became quickly apparent that the organizers ordered way too much pizza, again.

In the world after the end of the world, liberated from persecution, spiders become sovereign.

Artwork by David Stenbeck