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Visions for the Last Night on Earth

                                    Brian Barker


That spring the wind smelled like a bag of loose nails, & the sky kept turning a candied, gaseous green like a film of algae blooming in a plastic wading pool. Each morning we awoke to some new sign. Once, for instance, piles of dogshit furred in a dewy-white mold rose from the yard like the ruins of a forgotten civilization that orange butterflies visited, rowing their wings triumphantly in the watery sunlight. Another morning we spied on our neighbor shirtless in his driveway, stroking his scumbled beard, standing amidst his fleet of rusted-out jalopies, one arm extended as though to shake hands with a delegation of ghosts. That spring the beehives collapsed, along with several celebrities, a handful of foreign governments, an ancient glacier, a foolproof military strategy, a small enclave of albino badgers, a respected Mexican drug cartel, a friend’s vegetable garden, & a senator from some-such-place. Some degenerate began stalking you, too, & when you pointed him out & I stalked him back across campus, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking that he looked like a terrorist. Sorrow & fear sawed us in half, love, like a broken zipper, & sometimes, in the middle of the afternoon, we locked the bedroom door & held each other with the lights on, the room so cramped & stuffy it was like being marooned in a space capsule drifting out of orbit, further away from the world, though the storms blew in again & we could hear the water rising in the basement. Once, curled there with you, afraid to move lest the house slide off its foundation, I heard the dog make a percolating noise in his lungs like oil bubbling up through hot sand, & then he sighed so deeply I imagined his bones filling with air, & then you mumbled in your sleep, I only want to keep from disappearing. I felt a vibration behind my eyes like a manhole cover clanging shut, & I slept & dreamed I was crawling headfirst through the basement or a cave or the hold of a wrecked ship, drawn forward by the bouncing fulcrum of my flashlight. Ahead of me I could see the ground writhe with speckled salamanders, blind & mercurial, silver driblets gnawing at the damp edges of my shadow. When I touched one it sprouted eyes in the darkness. I felt it watching me. I felt the future, alien & indifferent, like the sump of its cold, liquid heart racing beneath my fingertip.


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