At the End of the World

Listen to Hannah Ahn read her poem:

At the end of the world, I trace the lines
where the body begins, discard the rest. Because
our bodies are all that we own. I remember my childhood
long ago, the first spring, burnished wheat
spiraling taut against the sky, the grass under my feet.
My brother stood on the porch, still a boy,
holding a hose, watering the yard. When they came to kill
the lambs in the pen, lying in their beds, unknowing of their fate,
their eyes were black as marbles. I think of what
my father said: Sometimes it’s better not to
know you’re alive.

So what if my children won’t live to
receive Social Security? Or if we are destined
to become stardust in the sky when the earth
inevitably implodes in on itself. This body is all
I have, I say. Some days it is still not enough. I remember
what a climate scientist on TV said:
How can we bring children into this world?
and I changed the channel, thinking, If anybody would
know anything about that, she would.
So I don’t
think about the unborn, the ones that do not know
they are alive yet. But I wake up every morning to
a sky caving in on itself, pocked with smoke, and it
reminds me so much of a body, in its contours of
chest and limbs, that some nights it is hard to
roll over and fall asleep next to it.
I swear that I can hear the sky breathe.

When the moon inevitably swallows us,
silver rivers choking life out of the bed of
the earth, when the skyscrapers turn back to the
deserts from which they came, and we go to sleep
for the last time, I wonder what comes next.
I think of that movie I have
forgotten to watch, the untouched final chapter
of a book lying beside my bed. Nuclei splitting
back into nuclei, hosed down by fire, the world undressed
to its bones.

We are all made of bones, I say, dust
touching dust, and that was where we were meant to return.
When the world ends, I think of my brother, still a boy,
standing on the porch, thrust in shadow. The
lambs lie in their green beds, still untouched. He places
his thumb over the hose, and the water sprays in
a circle.

We go everywhere
and nowhere all at the same damned time.

Read on . . .

More about the winners of the Ninth Annual High School Writing Contest