Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Changes in Our Apocalyptic Poems

I've been typing poems into the computer, which means I've been reading through some poetry notebooks.  I've also been sending poetry packets out to journals, which means I've been reading old work.

I've been thinking about my apocalyptic poems and how they've changed since the election of Donald Trump.  I'm wondering about those changes. 

Clearly they were prompted by Trump, which means those types of apocalypses envisioned by Atwood could be possible--a hostile government comes into power and things go downhill quickly.  I had always seen the history of the west as a progress in a fairly linear direction towards greater freedoms.  At least that's how I viewed post WWII history once the Soviet Union crumbled.

My pre-Trump apocalypse poems often revolved around natural disasters, not political disasters.  My post-Trump poems are different, in a way I can't quite articulate yet.  The disaster is more shadowy, but it's clear that people must get moving.

I've also been wondering if my poems are different now because I've been reading different apocalypse poetry since the election.  For example, in the waning months of 2016, this poem by Adrienne Rich kept appearing in a variety of places.  I wrote several poems inspired by the imagery in this poem:  abandoned meeting houses, revolutionary roads, people disappeared.

And yet, there are still other types of apocalyptic poems I've been writing, poems that refer past apocalyptic times.  Here's one for your Thursday.  At a previous point in this presidency, I worried about something that wasn't the possibility that leaders will never figure a way out of this government shut down:

Fire, Fury, Power

Bellicose leaders bellow
about fire and fury and power
like the world has never seen.
I water my petunias
which struggle in this heat.

I think of all the nuclear knowledge
that I once had: RADS and half lives
and how to read a Geiger counter.
I knead the bread dough
and set it on a warm windowsill.

I think of the geography of the Pacific.
I wish I had paid closer attention
in distant history classes. I plot
trajectories of ICBMs on an old
globe that names countries that no longer exist.
I walk the dog who greets
everyone with overwhelming joy.

I wait for news updates.
In these days of nuclear brinksmanship,
I fully expect someone to beat
a shoe on a table and threaten
to bury us all.
I’ve been saving this wine
for a special occasion. Tonight
I will drink it.

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