Irrelevant Prophecy


The first coming, for all I know,

when the zeppelins fall into the cities
and the dogs mistook for meat anything
that was the dream of meat,

during the last broadcast of our anthemic national creed
read aloud in strentorian tones

but recorded beforehand, as by that time
the suit-clowns had all decamped to the Solomons.

Read it how you will, like the balloon saying WELCOME
alone on the airport ceiling.

On the plains between Azeroth and the Magreb,
we saw the eagles battle the were-goats,

but the lightning bolted for its own reasons,
and when the earth opened we all
built bridges out of stolen copper wire.

Lo, the rhinocerus stood in the sandstorm,
dropped by the WWF helicopter,
where “the last standing” does not indicate triumph.

On ESPN you could see the night sky
fill in with the devil’s empty light.

How could it have come to this,
we’re all supposed to moan,
but instead we binge the current catastrophic.

We forget there were the insides of each other
to embrace in despair.

“You have the clocks,” the Afghans used to tell
the Americans, “but we have the time,”
but now where’s the distinction?,

while the cyclone spins on its tip,
and the sun turns the color of [pick a bodily fluid].

If you know a path over
the Halo moutainsides around us,

show me, before morning strikes again.

About the Author

Michael Atkinson‘s first book of poems, One Hundred Children Waiting for a Train (Word Works), won the Washington Prize in 2001. His poems have been in The Threepenny Review, Ontario Review, Crazyhorse, Prairie Schooner, New Letters, Michigan Quarterly Review, Chicago Review, and elsewhere. He teaches at Long Island University, and works as a longtime film critic, late of the late, lamented Village Voice.