Newtok, Alaska



Now that the ground has opened

at the farthest edge of our continent


Now that the dead sit up in their beds

stripped of their flesh but not their accusatory stares


Now that the earth is suffering every grief

prophesied in every sacred text—flood,


fire, tremors, plague, fish dying in the rivers,

insects and birds falling out of the air


* * * * *


Even now, it is hard to imagine an ending so final

there is no new story to tell.


Maybe if I conjure a planet-wide eruption,

Pompei everywhere at once


with no archeologists left to unravel the clues—

no remnants, no monuments, no metaphors,


no memories—I can grasp the idea

for a moment, before falling back on But then….


* * * * *


Once while the grown-ups were hunting the children playing


Once while the children were making so much noise in the house


Once a hand came into the tunnel a hand with a large mouth


Once a hand with a large mouth with teeth in the palm of the hand


Once a hand caught the children who were making so much noise


Once a hand dragged the children out of the house one by one

except for two who hid under a large wooden bowl


Once there was so much noise in the house

the crushing of bones


Once the grown-ups returned to find

a pile of skulls and two children hiding


Now when the hand appears it is a sign and


* * * * *


the people in this village at the end of the world


are packing what they can, their pots and pans,

their blankets, their sisters’ stories. Moving


to higher ground until water reaches the peaks


* * * * *


and time runs out, as the signs proclaim

in uneven letters, children filling the park


downtown in my own city, mouths stretched wide,

joyful in their anger. They are loud, they chant


The sea is rising, so are we, they want the story

to unreel as human stories have always done,


tangled in places but then (but then) unknotting,

revealing an outlet or a portage or a bowl to hide under


even when grief arrives as prophesied, the next generation

burying their dead, mourning and moving on.