Poem-a-Day April 2019 Writer’s Digest Challenge #20. Theme: Dark #aprpad

When the World Became Electric…

…electricity became a controlled substance,
a schedule II drug,
opening every line of communication.
It became the light of our lives,
for it lit up the world.

Electricity lifted the chill of the winter cold;
it made low the wave of summer heat.
It turned Christmastime into a Wonderland of Light.
It made icy sidewalks and streets wet with rain
glisten with red, yellow, and green.
It brought the outdoor markets inside,
where fruit shone like the wax creations gathering dust
in wooden bowls at Grandma’s house,
where meat in carnivorous red spread out in a cooler
like dismembered specimens in a pathology lab,
and vegetables stayed fresh long after they’d been picked;
the life of everything lengthened,
for there were strawberries all winter long
only to be left to macerate on a counter,
their texture becoming lush and juicy,
bleeding into whatever dessert they topped.

No longer did people have to read by
the flicker of candlelight,
for they could stay up all hours,
reading under a lamp
brighter than the moon,
chatting with friends they’d never met,
playing games with people they’d never know.
There was nothing they couldn’t do,
for the separation of night and day
had blurred like wet chalk lines.

Electricity kept ice cream nearer than any parlor,
waiting to be enjoyed while watching characters on a screen
imitate life (or something like it),
listening to entertainment packaged as news,
or being seduced by The Next Big Thing (as-seen-on-TV).

When the world became electrified,
it made Presidential politics a commodity,
fed an entire generation on fabricated reality,
and made stars from nothing—
propelling them into the celluloid firmament.
It made television larger than life,
funnier,
more dramatic,
and just simply more.

When people sought that which they could not find,
for out of skilled writers did these actors speak,
they took to recording their own lives,
posting for all to see—
seeking validation for that which was the CliffsNotes version
of the life they knew.
There were no more Christmas letters,
no more long-lost friends,
but rather many who should have remained lost.
There was no more wondering what had ever happened to whom;
there was no more mystery.
Lives were documented,
and memories that would’ve faded into the unreliable narratives
of those who’d been there,
were sharper with digital reminders.
No longer was anyone allowed to forget anything.

Electricity brought refrigeration to the world,
keeping the water for our cells cool,
the water for our bodies, warm.

It made the job of the housewife easier,
so that her hands would become as soft as bread dough
allowed to rise all day.
Such plummy hands would no longer hydrate into prunes,
and clothes were scrubbed not,
but washed with spin,
spun to dry.

With the telegraph,
mothers of sons would find out whether their job
had ended on the battlefield,
wives would learn of their widowhood,
and children, their fatherless state.
Days of hope were shortened,
days to heal, lengthened.

The radio would liven up a party with music for dancing
in a room full of conversation;
it would broadcast the news of numerous wars,
the fireside chats of Franklin Roosevelt,
giving confidence to the poor in spirit for this life;
it spread the religion of Billy Graham,
giving hope to those same for the life to come;
it gave baseball scores and boxing moves,
the jingles that became part of American culture;
the War of the Worlds by Orson Welles,
the wartime speeches of Winston Churchill,
the frightening German of Adolf Hitler,
the inspiring words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.;
the music that moved souls like mountains,
and the poetry of Sylvia Plath—
that suicide note of a broken doll,
held together with glue
under the extreme heat
of depression.
Through disembodied voices,
people would call in to a stranger
to be told how to run their lives.

The telephone kept people confined to a place of conversation,
and over coffee and doughnuts a young ingénue would chat with her mum,
who nattered over tea and crumpets somewhere in the English countryside.
The Japanese wife would speak in her childhood tongue
to the grandmother whose wisdom and warmth
would come through in the single sense of speech.
The Navy man who could not bring his wife to his place of deployment,
would describe that same place they would never go together—
this place where their child could never have his special needs met.

Then video chat technology came,
and families could see their loved ones in real time—
their unchanging lives a fluid frame,
bordering the life that was ever-changing.

When the Internet became Something for Everyone,
it gave a voice to the voiceless,
and every writer a platform—
somewhere up in the blogosphere,
floating through the ad clouds.
It made porn portable;
it helped others write
what they could never say.
Everyone became a critic,
and people could preach their hate
through the cloak of anonymity.
They could be anything they wanted to be.

Dates weren’t arranged by Fate,
through Happenstance,
or blindly through friends,
but through algorithms and quizzes and personality tests.
People now knew more about a person halfway across the country
than they did about their own neighbors.
They would find themselves lost in the Twitterverse,
where everyone was always talking at once—
their thoughts succinctly expressed,
only to be buried under a deluge of the next wave of opinions.

Electricity charged the libraries contained in a device,
and phones merged into one’s identity through
pictures, texts, and videos.
The mechanics of typing replaced the art of cursive writing,
and memories become atrophied for lack of use,
for Google became the god of Search and Locate.

Electricity made the world one giant machine that never takes a break,
with its Walgreens, Waffle Houses, and Wal-Marts.
There is no rest or renewal,
for the juices of life flow in a way that is Positively Electric.

Those who should have been dead are kept alive through machines,
non-sentient,
non-autonomous,
their bodies aging even as their consciousness has moved on
to that one-way plane of existence called Elsewhere.

The world became quicker through the Electric Age:
Days becoming hours,
hours, minutes,
for twice the work could be done.

When man manipulated the currents of electricity,
turning it into currency and a Necessity of Life,
making that which could not be held,
but harnessed,
it illuminated the world to every dark thing
that happened in it,
raising the awareness of an entire world.

2019 April PAD Challenge: Day 20

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #436: Comprehensive

Assembly Line Blues

For a time,
they’d known how to put all the pieces together,
until it became more profitable for the Conglomerates
for them to know how to make only one piece.
Then came the day that none of them knew how to make anything,
for the robots did everything.
And so they built the robots–
until the robots were taught how to recreate their own kind.
And the Conglomerates owned the robots,
until the robots owned them,
turning them into what they had been,
even as these bots became what Pinocchio had always dreamed of becoming.

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 436

Poem-a-Day April 2018 Writer’s Digest Challenge #20. Theme: “Earlier Line”

When Art Lost its Tangibility

1000 Years in the Future

With every year that passed,
the world became more senseless.
Crayons disappeared,
markers faded,
colored pencils became dull.
There was no more paint,
no more sculpture.
Music–
created by the computers
or their programmers–
was piped in everywhere,
scattering the thoughts of the populace
as in the world of Harrison Bergeron.

There was a uniformity to everything–
a measure of control in a chaotic world
that sought to make everything smaller,
greener.

For they said the earth had run out of room
for art that took up actual space.
Through computer applications,
a New Art for a New Era was created
by the creators–
as virtual space was infinite space.
Thus the tactile processes of creating art
was lost,
and craft stores had gone the way of
small businesses.
Photographers and graphic designers became
the modern artists.

And so, when batteries died and
the electricity went out,
the art went with it.
And this art that had lost its smell
was but a memory
that no description
could ever do justice,
for human recall was the height
of fallibility.

And when the power grid shut down,
a group of bored children came upon an old schoolhouse
that had not been touched by urban decay,
but by rural depression, isolation, and apathy.
It was in a cobwebby closet that they found
the pencils and the crayons,
yet they knew not what to do with them.

But then one remembered a film from long ago–
saved from the Ban and Burn 100 years before–
where fingers weren’t the tools,
but rather, held the tools.
It was then that human hands reclaimed the functionality
that had once created beauty
(even as the artists of the New Era could only capture
and rearrange it)–
the kind of art that was as messy
as it was beautiful.

And when the power returned forty years later
following The Rebuilding,
the world glowed with screens once more,
but it had become alive again through a New Renaissance.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2018-april-pad-challenge-day-20

Poem-a-Day April 2018 Writer’s Digest Challenge #7. Theme: Senses

When the World Lost its Flavor

When the world lost its flavor, it lost its savor.

Flowers were as pretty and lifeless as waxed fruit,
freshness dates on food became more stringent,
and chefs became color coordinators as well as plating impressionists.
Smells and tastes were becoming the incomprehensible mysteries of the past.

As the older generation passed away,
so did the memory of what it meant for something to be fragrant or foul,
chocolatey or lemony.

Perfume and cologne became a sort of holy water,
herbs and spices, medicinal,
while sexual attraction lessened.

Babies no longer smelled like lavender and innocence,
but their soft, fleshy folds,
the wispiness of their lingering lanugo,
the warmth from their rapid metabolism,
became more precious.

Plates were arranged in categories of crispy…crunchy…crumbly…creamy.
There was no need for salt or pepper,
which were used for “spicing”—an emerging art form.
Paintings such as The Spice Rack became museum curiosities.

Gone was the awareness of a lingering essence—
the spirit of someone dead embedded in sheets and pillows.
It was as if a wall had come down,
and a part of the world was closed forever.

Life became like watching a movie—
a world of sight and sound.
Loved ones touched more—
the rough stubble of a grandfather’s cheek,
the dewy softness of a child’s hands,
the girlfriend whose hair was like silk threads and spider webs…
such traits were cherished above all others.

Gone was the smell of barbecue on back patios wafting over backyard fences,
and those who investigated the murdered were removed somewhat from the carnage.

Sights and sounds became more extreme;
bakeries shut down,
chocolateries became bars,
and coffee was taken black.

The world shrank and became thinner,
for sweetness had lost its sweet.
Nothing smelled salty or sour or tasted bitter or burned—
that sense of protectiveness against bad food was gone.

There were the sensations of hot peppers and cool mint,
but nuances were no more,
and with them, the memories attached to them.

This loss was the first plague,
even among the deaf and the blind.

With every year that passed,
the world became more senseless,
until all that was left was

Consciousness.

2018 April PAD Challenge: Day 7

#Micropoetry Mondays: Apocalypse

water-76350_960_720

The adults sacrificed themselves,
so their children would have a better life,
even as those same children, as adults,
sacrificed their future for their present happiness.

When all memories of faith in life everlasting disappeared from the earth,
there were those who lived without knowledge of sin,
& those who chased after immortality on Earth.

The State found a purpose for those of unsound mind:
the Lessers, though neither eaten nor hunted,
were denied their medication,
& were unwilling animals in The New Zoo.

He spent the graveyard shift,
watching the hairy underbelly of society scratching themselves–
evidence that the earth decayed during the Dreamtime.

When they had eradicated all genders,
races, & religions–
all in the name of equality–
they had accomplished what Hitler never could:
they had made everyone the same.

Poem-a-Day 2016 Writer’s Digest Challenge #4. Theme: Distance

A Glimpse into The Distant Future

For whosoever needed a part,
be it a kidney, a lung, or a heart,
could have it for a price–
even as Jesus had bought
our whole beings with such–
the price a lottery ticket.

For those who needed blood,
with its magical properties
(for had not the blood of Jesus
once shed grace on Thee?),
the United Nations Blood Bank
had become a place of withdrawal for the rich,
of deposit for the poor.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2016-april-pad-challenge-day-4

~

The New Lottery

“I bought you a ticket,” Julie said.  She handed Jenna, her eleven-year-old daughter, the pink slip.  It was the color of the flamingo, signifying Florida, though neither had ever seen one in Pensacola, or L.A. (Lower Alabama), as the natives called it).  Pensacola was more Florabama than true Florida.  However, it was warm year round; if one wanted snow, they had to go to Canada now, as snow no longer fell in the United States.

“Thanks, Mom,” Jenna said, trying not to get her hopes up—all the while thinking that winning this lottery would buy her heart’s desire.  She had never had the opportunity to go to Disneyworld.  Maybe if she won, she would get the chance.  Though many of the rides of the past had been banned because of safety issues, she’d heard the simulations were just as good.

Julie smiled a smile she didn’t feel.  So many were in need out there, so what good did it do to pray to the gods, except make the praying person feel better, give them some peace—a semblance of control over the Fates?  Even the Greek gods and goddesses of ancient times could only do so much—they couldn’t control Fate.

If she held the winning ticket, her daughter would have so many opportunities that were closed to her now.  She would be able to go to the gifted Common Core school, she would be able to have a dog, she would be able to eat a banana—a rare fruit which only the very rich enjoyed.  Preceding the Great Blight, her Cajun grandmother, in lieu of a cake, would make Bananas Foster every year for her birthday.  Even though Banana #5 had been created by AgriTech as an addition to tofu, it lacked the subtlety of the original fruit.  Though Banana #5 didn’t go bad for months, it could not compare to the creamy bananas of Julie’s childhood.

“Do you mind if I go for a walk?”  It wasn’t even close to midnight, so she wouldn’t be breaking curfew.  She rarely left her daughter alone, but she needed this time to herself.
“No, Mom, go ahead, I’ll be fine.”

Julie smiled, and walked outside, where the breeze from the Gulf commingling with the humidity made it damn near unbearable.  At least she didn’t have to worry about getting the flu.  There had been a monstrous epidemic ten years ago in which about two percent of the population had died, but now everyone was vaccinated, except for the few thousand who lived off the grid in the mountains of West Virginia.  Not exactly a mass exodus.  All the children there were homeschooled, for they weren’t allowed to remain in civilized society, and neither did they receive any benefits from the State.  Julie wasn’t sure how they were able to survive without Food Vouchers or modern healthcare.  They even supposedly drank milk from a cow, which she found rather distasteful.

As she walked, the soft soles of her shoes a dull thud on the sidewalk, she realized she was grateful for her life.  Cameras everywhere recorded her every move, and she felt completely safe walking the streets, even at this late hour.  The streetlights made it almost as bright as day.  Humankind had come a long way, banishing the darkness from the night.  It was a wonder those vagabonds up in the hills hadn’t died off by now.

So many diseases had been eradicated, and cancer was becoming rarer since sugar had been banned.  She remembered looking at pictures of people in modern history books, and thinking how strange it was that people had gotten that large.  Sugar was still traded on the black market, but if you got sick, you were found out.  She just didn’t understand people who wouldn’t follow the law, for whatever reason.

Julie was feeling particularly melancholy tonight, and it didn’t help that she didn’t have a lot of friends.  Jenna took up most of her time, but she did have one:  Bethany Douglas—a woman seven years younger than she, with whom she’d become acquainted at the Standardized Testing Center.  They both volunteered there as their contribution to society, helping children get placed in their respective fields so they could start training for the workforce as soon as possible.

Bethany had a rare form of brain cancer, possibly inoperable.  She had insurance like everyone else in the country, as it was against the law to be without, for all the good it had done her.  If only her parents had gone for genetic testing, Bethany’s life of suffering, her life itself, could have been prevented.

She passed Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, its stained-glass windows radiating from the inside.  People still gathered to worship their God there, for mention of Him could not be made in public.  It was considered a form of indoctrination, and anyone who was caught uttering the name of God outside the meetinghouses and the privacy of their homes would have to pay a fine for crossing the line between separation of Church and State.

A couple of drones flew by with packages.  John had surprised her with a Sphere just last week.  She’d been taking care of Jenna for so long that she no longer bought anything for herself.  The Sphere, though it hadn’t made her forget the reality of Jenna’s situation, had at least taken her mind off of it.

The Sphere was a new invention.  She could experience being at the beach, as it used to be, before the last oil spill, when all the seashells had turned black.  That had ended the use of fossil fuels, and the world had plummeted into a deep depression, until the State and the Clean Earth Police had taken over.  Through the Sphere, she could stand under the waterfalls of Niagara Falls, look over the edge of the Grand Canyon, and even experience Mars, which had become a popular tourist destination.

She thought about all these things, and then suddenly, she was at Bethany’s door.  She often went on auto-pilot like this.  Her mind always checked out when she was alone.

Bethany answered, the swelling in her face from numerous pain medications distorting her delicate features.  “Julie, how nice to see you.”  Bethany’s spirit, even while staring into the face of the Unknown after death, always lifted Julie’s spirits.

It was strange being in a house owned by someone other than the State.  Private property such as real estate was a thing of the past.  Some government rentals were better than others, but always, those in power lived in the plush ones outside the Centre.  Bethany’s family had owned the house for over two hundred years, but the taxes on it were becoming burdensome.

Bethany’s house was homey, and Julie loved being there.  There was even a fireplace in the living room, though no one used them anymore because of the pollution they caused.  However, Bethany always had several soy candles burning in the hearth.  There were no books or magazines to be found—Julie had held only a few books in her lifetime.  The idea of flipping a page rather than scrolling down was foreign to her.  There were no pencils or pens—only the Artists employed by the National Endowment of the Arts League used such tools.  Her eye caught sight of a pink ticket, and Julie looked at her friend in askance.

“I want you to have it,” Bethany said, catching her eye.

“But that’s not allowed.  The State keeps track of all that.”

“There are exemptions.  If you and John divorce before the lottery is called, then he is no longer part of the household.  I got it in his name.  That way, you have two chances.”
Julie noticed all the drapes were drawn.  There was no way a drone could be spying on them right now, though she had seen a few fly by on the way.

“I will tell John.”

Bethany nodded.  “There isn’t much time.  I want to teach Jenna the Art.”

Though the State had done away with teaching cursive writing fifty years ago, one scribe was allowed per district, and Bethany was it.

“Jenna can take over for me when I go,” Bethany said, “instead of someday working in that solar plant, like John.  Of course, he’s doing the greater good.  You know, Julie, I wonder what life used to be like, when art was so spontaneous, and everyone did it.  Seems strange, doesn’t it, that just anyone could be an artist.  Disposable art.  Now it means something when you’re an artist.”

“I suppose,” Julie said, having once thought she’d like to be an artist herself.  She had never pursued it, because it wasn’t one of the approved majors at the University.  Medicine, science, technology, engineering, education, mathematics, and business were the Magnificent Seven.

Julie stayed for awhile, and they chatted over slices of square watermelon and seltzer.  “I wanted a child, too,” Bethany murmured.  “I’d thought about applying for a special dispensation, but there’s enough people in the world, I suppose.”

“Depends on who the donors are,” Julie said, and Bethany smiled.  They were thinking of Dana Kimberly, who had hosted a sperm-donor party, and ended up picking some loser’s because he was the only one she wanted to do it the natural way with.  The child had turned out to be subpar.  People just never learned.

Peace radiated from Bethany, and Julie marveled that someone who seemed so alive could be dying on the inside.  Perhaps dying with dignity did that for people.  Since it had become legal in all fifty-seven states, there was no more undignified dying.  Cases in which people chose to wither away in hospices, which were becoming increasingly uncommon, were rare.  Birth with dignity had only been around the last twenty years.  Women didn’t scream like some primitive animal when they had babies—they were grown in artificial wombs.  Women could watch their babies grow like a flower in a vase.  They had true reproductive freedom now.

The world had become a more civilized one.  Abortion had been done away with.  A woman who didn’t want a baby growing inside her didn’t have to have it anymore—she gave away rights to her embryo, though there were a militant few who didn’t want their biological child running around, and so there were places to go for that, though it was a punishable offense.  It was considered a crime against humanity, and treason against the nation’s future, for the fewer lowly beings being born, the fewer there would be to serve as soldiers in the armed forces and do manual labor.

“Knowing that I’m going to die free of pain and indignity has helped me enjoy what time I have left here on this beautiful Earth,” Bethany had said after her last, unsuccessful operation.  “It is my duty not to be a burden to my family.”

Just then, Adam, Bethany’s husband, came home, followed by Gus and Charlie Solarski.  “Hi, kid,” he said, giving Bethany a kiss on the forehead.  It was ironic that marriage equality, which was now free to anyone who wanted to marry, had become rarer than ever.  Gus and Charlie, two male nurses Bethany had met at the hospital, were exceptions, which made them rebels.

The only time Julie had been a rebel was to have a child the natural way, which insurance no longer paid for.  She’d trusted her Catholic faith that suffering brought one closer to Jesus, but it hadn’t, and so she’d left her childhood faith forever.

Adam went to the kitchen to place their dinner delivery orders while they polished off the rest of their seedless, and somewhat tasteless, watermelon.  Watermelons used to have seeds, her grandmother had told her, and how fun it had been spitting them out, but Julie wasn’t so sure.  Why should food be such a chore to eat?

“You know Jenna represents the little girl I’ll never have,” Bethany said as soon as Adam was out of earshot, “but that wasn’t the only reason I bought the ticket.  I also bought it out of love for both you and John.  I needed you to know that.”

Julie’s eyes misted.  She held Bethany’s hand and whispered, “Thank you.”  It didn’t matter that John and Bethany had once been very much in love.  They had shared a defective chromosome that would have resulted in a child born with a terminal illness; their marriage hadn’t been allowed because they hadn’t agreed to sterilization.  They had wanted children more than each other, and Julie had always felt bad for Bethany, for she had neither John nor children.  She could’ve chosen to be bitter, but she had chosen to fall in love with another.

“Do you love me like you loved Bethany?” Julie had often asked her husband.

“More.  Because you are the mother of my child.”

Children had become so precious—a commodity.  Even their little parts were precious.  One baby heart (from a defective fetus) could save the body of a great mind, a baby liver, the life of a productive laborer.

No, nothing was wasted.  Everything was reused, recycled, upcycled, and given new life.  Even the embryos and fetuses who didn’t make it were put to good use in the labs.  The American nation was thriving.  As this brave new world became more familiar, memories of what used to be faded into a silent spring.

 

When Julie got back, Jenna was resting comfortably.  She kissed her little girl’s forehead—her miracle child, she called her.  Most of the defective genes had died out, and the few babies born with Down’s Syndrome now were seen as strange little creatures, but they did make good laborers.  Everyone had a purpose in this life—it was a purpose-driven life.

A tear fell from her cheek onto the lavender coverlet.  Jenna had been a perfect baby, but Julie feared she would never fulfill her potential.

 

The weeks passed.

Jenna couldn’t attend Bethany’s slipping ceremony, but John and Julie were there, along with her husband Adam, and a few other close friends, as well as Bethany’s stepmother, who had raised her, her father, and half-sister.  Her father displayed pictures of Bethany as she grew up, with music by Damon Krauss playing in the background.  It was a celebration of her life, and a wonderful send-off to the life beyond.

It was a peaceful transition.  Bethany had called Julie to her and in her hand was the ticket.  “Did you get the divorce?” she whispered.

“Yes,” she said.  She and John had decided it was the right thing to do, and it had taken all of an hour online, where most pastors and government officials resided.  Julie couldn’t help the niggling thought that Bethany, in the end, had separated her from John.

She and John walked home together.  Few cars passed them.  Not many people could afford the kind of cars that were around today, but the world was much safer than it had been when cars powered by gasoline were everywhere.

“Do you ever ask if you’re happy, John?” Julie said as they walked arm in arm.

He was quiet for a minute, and Julie assumed he wasn’t going to answer, but then he spoke up.  “I don’t like to think about it.  Somehow, it makes me feel less happy.”

Julie nodded.  Somehow, she understood.  If anyone was her soul-mate, John was, and somehow, being divorced from him felt wrong, even though they were doing it for their daughter.

“If being at peace is being happy, then I am that…like Bethany,” she said, and John broke down then.  They grieved together, and in so doing, it brought them closer.

“I wish I could’ve been there,” Jenna said when her parents came into her room that night.

Julie ran her fingers through her daughter’s fine hair—hair that was like fairy wings and angel dust, like starlight and moonshine.  At least that was how Bethany had put it.  She had always tried to inject a little magic into Jenna’s too-realistic life.  “Bethany understood.  Bethany always understands,” she told her daughter as she drew her into her arms.

 

Three weeks passed, and then the winning number was called on the big screen in the Towne Square.  The President was in charge of calling for each of the states.  John and Julie held each other, holding their breaths, knowing their daughter was watching from her room.

When John and Julie Esh returned to Jenna’s bed, John was behind her as Julie told her, with tears in her eyes, “You won, Jenna.  You’re going to get a new heart.”

 

 

 

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #326, Theme: Spooky

So “Perfect Sense” is one of my favorite movies.  Though it is classified as a science fiction, I also think of it as a psychological horror (so much better than the gory kind).  I have often thought of this film as poetic, and so I wrote it as a poem from my perspective (or how I would live out the end of my Earth life, knowing these calamities were to come).

curtain-13823_960_720

The Evening the We the World Ended

My eyes feast upon the book—
the colors and the contrasts,
the cursive with the curlicues,
the lines and the shadows.
I gaze outside through the open window,
a breath of wind parting the sheer curtains
to reveal the soul inside the outside:
tangerine, ruby, and violet—
a fruit, a rock, a flower—
all weapons in the right light.
The light diminishes,
the barometer is going kablooey.
I reach behind me to turn on the lamp,
but my eyes are wide open
when everything goes dark.

My ears feast on the sounds of music,
the fluid art of language,
the happiness in laughter,
the clinking of a spoon against a teacup,
ice in a glass.
“I Love Lucy” is on,
and I can hear humor and humanity—
the very lightness of being.
It is a comfort.
I feel the flickers on my face,
bathing me in the golden glow of black and white.
I can smell the honeysuckle outside my window,
remembering the bead of dew on the tip of my tongue.
We are our memories.
And then everything goes silent.

My nose feasts on the aromas of fresh-picked fruit,
of flowers, a lemon cake cooling on the counter;
of the smell of green tea soap after a shower.
I can smell the rain I know is coming down,
the salt from the ocean,
the mist that is like a dewy shroud.
Fecund, fresh.
I lick my lips, trace them with my finger.
The Earth is more alive than we are.
I turn my face to the scarf my mother left that last day,
expecting the powdery, floral scent of White Shoulders.
I inhale,
but the fragrance is gone,
and without smell,
memory fades.

My tongue feasts on the crispness of a Honeycrisp apple,
the light crunch of a raw cashew,
the creamy, savory mouthfeel of fontina,
the subtle sweetness of dark chocolate,
the slight bitterness of espresso with steamed milk and agave nectar.
I want the chewiness of something—
a bread.
I’ve always made meals of varying temperatures,
tastes,
textures.
I reach my way to the kitchen on bare feet,
the tiles cold now,
but it is my last chance.
I find the focaccia.
I chew, but the taste is gone.

My touch feasts on the softness of my baby’s unblemished cheek,
my baby, now quiet,
now still,
not understanding,
but accepting all the same.
I reach for the glass of water,
letting the coolness of it glide over my hands,
I let you enfold us,
you the head,
I the heart,
my fingers threading through the fine, blond hair on your arms.
I delight in the warm whisper that tickles my ear that can no longer hear,
and I know I am not alone.
I can feel the moonbeams being placed over my eyes like daisies,
and then not at all.

A worldwide phenomenon,
a rapturing of all our senses—
a rapid metamorphosis.
We lie in beds,
sit in chairs,
wait, pray, sleep for the inevitable—
a moment of silence stretched into eternity.
We are a stopped clock with no face,
huddled together with those we love most,
having found each other by scrambling in the dark still night,
awaiting the last of the plagues.

We know not whether our eyes are open or closed,
whether it is hot or cold,
but I know you are near,
and there is no pain.
Just consciousness.