(For Dylan Thomas)
Where the bluebells bloom
like crab meat, soft and melting
against a sun, tongue, an
agent of heat, of honey,
of fire, wind-strewn
to the four corners
where the bluebells bloom
Lenon sits on his back patio as the world ends. He presses the tip of his final pencil into the final stanza on the final page of his final notebook with the knowledge that his work will never be remembered. With the knowledge that fighting against the current of time isn’t as romantic as it’s often painted.
The wind chimes his mother sent him for this twenty-fifth birthday tinkle in their soft, percussive way above his head, but the wind is picking up. The wind won’t stop picking up. Sooner or later, the metal cylinders will come crashing down. Soon, the sun will follow.
“Why don’t you run?”
Lenon glances at the angel standing in his lawn. Long, long blond hair, so blond and long it’s nearly white—a curtain of ice trailing down his back. And then there’s his wings, curled currently, but wide and feathered and violent in their presumed impossibility when he had swooped down minutes before.
“Where is there to go?” Lenon answers, running fingers through his receding hair.
The angel shrugs. Smiles. “Does it matter? Humans are always running. When the flood comes, to higher ground. When the wind comes, below the earth. When the fires rise, into trees
like birds of prey.”
“The world is ending,” Lenon says. “There is nowhere to go anymore.”
“That isn’t our fault, human.”
“I never said it was.”
Lenon knows, like everyone else who once had access to TV, radio, or social media knows. The frogs went first. Global warming destroyed them. Vanished them into the ether. Then the bees collapsed and so did a huge chunk of human comfortability. Goodbye, cocoa bean. Goodbye. Species blinked out, blinked away, and the oil barons didn’t care. The presidents and kings didn’t care. Lip service, reversing the climbing waters flooding the costal cities. Lip service, erecting walls to halt the destructive maelstrom coursing its way across what used to be Australia.
“We’re here to bring you back,” the angel says. His garb is the color of ochre. “The experiment is over.”
“Do you find it ironic,” Lenon says, “that you’re killing us like we killed the worms and beetles? The boars and the giraffes? I find it ironic.”
The angel never stops smiling. “We’re not destroying you permanently. The Creator must tinker. He must adjust your levels of avarice and antipathy. We’ll restore you, a better you, and all the creatures you didn’t care enough to save.”
Lenon looks down at his calloused hands. What did he do to help the environment when he still could? Recycle every once in a while? Buy those cloth bags instead of using plastic at the supermarket? He’d never been much of a people person, so he was not the one to shout warnings from street corners. He went to work, a tiny cubicle in an office bought and paid for by the natural gas companies who destroyed all that sacred land out west, and then he went back to his empty home and his empty bed and wrote poetry to keep himself sane.
That aloneness—that smaller aloneness comprised of feeling alone within a group of people—hid itself in the bigger, more innate aloneness of himself. That innate, singular aloneness had always been there from the time Lenon was a boy on the playground.
What would it have been like to connect? What it have been like to shoot off and ricochet into the world?
“I had a professor once,” Lenon says, meeting the gray of the angel’s eyes. “If this were a story, fiction, he’d call this a bathtub story. A story where two characters sit around and talk for the entire narrative. A narrative where nothing happens.”
The angel lifts one perfect, unblemished finger. “Oh, no. Oh, that’s not true. Look around you, child, look around at everything happening. See, hear, smell, touch, taste. Go on. You don’t have much time left.”
Lenon reclines on the back porch to see the sky, yellow now with a type of jaundice. And he sees clouds. So many clouds. And when he opens his ears—
The beat of his heart.
The beat of blood in his ears.
Then there is the touch of tears rolling down his cheeks like an avalanche, made all the worse by those shifting weather patterns.
In his mind’s eye, he sees walruses plunging to their deaths on boulders. He sees grass pulling up higher and higher until the monkeys in Africa have to fight for every last blade. He sees the snow leopard overheating under its pelt. The way its tongue lolls. The way its eyes flash with shame unknown to a predator so great as vultures circle and battle for scraps overhead.
Lenon watches a polar bear fall through an ice floe.
Lenon sees, as clear as the nectarine tree that used to grow in his grandmother’s garden, the fruit swole and dew-kissed, the way the owls slip right out of the sky.
And he sees the way the humans, one by one, are taken by those with long hair and wide wings. He sees, past the looting and the burning, past the destruction and the wild swerving of brains doing all they can to deny the coming of the end, the way the humans rage.
Rage, rage against the dying—
Lenon stands, pencil curled in his right hand, face sharp as the point.
“You’re right,” he says to the angel. “I don’t have much time.”
Two steps to leave the back patio, to feel the earth one last time against bare feet.
Smiling. Always smiling. Magnanimous with his time, the angel’s neck knocked back in repose…
“You can do nothing,” the angel says to the man. “What has come has already come. What will happen will happen.”
Lenon steps, steps, steps, muscles loose and fluid and warm. Hot as the air, as the wind rushing his face. The human bares its fangs.
Every cell, every vessel, every strand of DNA bares its fangs.
The angel laughs with a smugness once known to belong to humans. The irony is not lost, never lost, because energy can only ever be repurposed.
“What do you think—” The angel’s hair sparkles, glows as bright as his teeth.
Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.
The human lifts his pencil, his sword, his clawed-paw.
Before attacking, tearing, howling at the way the blood moves inside him, and then outside, outside, outside, like a burst sun, a regression of cosmic proportions—
Hoping to do more than maim.
Jared Povanda is a writer from upstate New York who doesn’t know if he’d be able to stab an angel with a pencil at the end of the world, but he does know that we should save the environment while we still have the chance. Connect with him on Twitter @JaredPovanda, and read more of his work in fine places like SOFT CARTEL, CHEAP POP, and Lammergeier.