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This is the end of the world - leisurely,
like true love, only recognized after the fact.
Not by the sudden appearance of nuclear fire,
scorching the sky autoclave-clean, but
by the gap that used to hold grapefruits at the supermarket.
Then no bananas, oranges, marshmallows.
But the silos are still full of grain,
the orchards of apples -
we have received a harvest-time apocalypse,
coloured by pumpkins and blazing leaves
and drying golden grasses, row on row.

See, the movies were full of barbed wire,
splintered baseball bats, blood spoiling the gasoline
and grey, grey skies and bare dirt everywhere you might look.
I think the main conceit was this:
we would notice.
The earth would shake,
stars tumble from the heavens -
it wouldn’t just be something to deal with,
a reason to finally buy a bike,
switch to patronizing the farmer’s market.
It wouldn't be just something worked into the schedule,
instead of blowing it molten away.

When the storm strikes, and the power dies,
we are not afraid: this has happened before, and,
a saga hero, it always returns. Blankets,
woodstove, curtains, candles.
It only takes 14 days to build a habit.
By the time I dare propose permanence,
we are already used to the flame.

It is a ten-day walk to the coast,
but we make it, bundled
in sleeping bags and grubby fleeces.
We do not meet any roving gangs of marauders -
Some newlyweds, who, when we ask
if we can light our own campfire from theirs,
laid just beyond the white thermoplastic shoulder-line
invite us simply to sit down instead.
We sing Billy Joel.

Yes, this is the end of the world -
But there are still children playing kickball in the street
even if the garden they send it skittering into
remains untrimmed.
The last Oreo, and a fifth of a cup
of sugar for your nettle-and-comfrey tea,
are a feast when there is still someone to share them with.

And the movies didn’t mention this:
that sure, the hunters might laugh at you,
with all your innocence and skill
only at programming dead devices,
double-bagged in the corner and awaiting resurrection,
but do you know how many people a moose can feed?
That a violin does not need electricity to sing,
that people are plastic, toy soldiers
that need only a little heat to be bent
into new shapes. No-one knows everything
but everyone knows something,
cans or fish or squash or the plane.
Even carless roads are taken over
by dandelions, hawkweed, and plantain.

“I never learned how to play chess,”
your brother says, as I take out the board -
there are none but analogue games to play, anymore.
“Let me teach you,” mine offers, and
that is how we are found,
in two teams of two leaning over the cream-and-ebony squares
on the front porch in the warm and buzzing twilight.
I feed a twig to the brazier constructed
from an old mixing bowl and three rocks.
He doesn’t know the names of the pieces -
they are all “horsies” and “that guy”
and we are laughing, there,
as the sun slides down into honey,
dashing tears from our eyes,
laughing like our hearts will break on the gold.

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