Folk Songs from the Pending Apocalypse

Upon our bellies we will go

All the manufactured sound will abate.  All the refrigerator motors and the city bus engines, the ringtones, construction and thumping bass of car stereos, the ceiling fans and the furnaces. It will all come to an unexpected end. The fluorescent bulbs will leave off humming and the insistent grump of every computer fan will fall quiet. The last generator will generate its final irrelevant function off of fumes. We’ll think, at first, we’ve gone deaf. Until we notice birds, fire, wind, footfall and, somewhere in the distance, singing. Forever going forward someone will be singing somewhere out of frame.

Soon after, we’ll begin to gather. Tentatively at first and shy as middle school students at a dance we know we must, but cannot fathom why we must, attend. We will meet in a landscape cobbled from concrete and silence, electric poles, old plastic bags and cell phone towers, in front of buildings we’ve begun to gut for wire and wood (the instinct to recreate will come over us, and though we won’t know what to do with it, we’ll destroy perfectly useful shelter in our haste). The graffiti will glow, hovering above its surface structure, more apparent without the sound of traffic as context. Motionless cars will niggle at our subconscious while objects of comfort: sofas, soup bowls, ergonomic office chairs; these will make us shake our heads in wonder as we tear them apart to fashion a sort of hackneyed tribal aesthetic (before our perfectly good trousers have even begun to wear out).

We will grow taut in the knowledge that it collapsed before it reached its full potential, because the whole of civilization prematurely blew its wad after a spate of over-compensatory pounding. So sorry we wasted time being hungry. So sorry we were ever withholding. On the other side of the preemptive and even beyond the retaliatory, our bodies will become sinewy. Every bone will ache like a tooth. We’ll forget words like “contrail” and “teleprompter.” Words like “toil” and “safety” will seem new. We’ll be miserly with the word “desire” and wasteful with what we call “need.”

Which horrible thoughts will we be confronted by then? Which imaginative tangent we’d successfully kept at bay will arise in us and gift us with our undoing? Or will we distract ourselves, awkwardly discussing the things we used to use to distract us? Will we say, oh, remember how once when we looked at a photograph our eyes searched for ourselves first? And if we weren’t in it, remember how the photo didn’t mean anything to us at all?

Then two of our number will peel off to lie on a bare mattress in a dark room (though perfectly fine linens molder away in the cupboard). Pulled together by some likeness of longing epitomized by the slope of a salty neck, one will say “The work we are doing is good work” and the other won’t be able to help themselves, will inevitably say “be inside me.” Because love will still make us stupid. Though its brutality will be more apparent. Though the luxury of the word will shame us. Though we’ll pronounce it “biological imperative.”

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