Jeannine Hall Gailey
Post-Apocalypse (with Anthropologie Catalog)
I’ve always wanted to be one of those girls
in an Anthropologie catalog, the kind
with their lank hair crowned casually
with $300 faux-metal tiaras and tipping
up their $1,000 hand-crafted tree toppers.
And now here, this desert landscape lends itself
to exactly that – emaciated and pale under tents,
we stand and wait for the sun with expressions
hinting of some future pleasure. Our hammock
is festooned with festive scarves, and seashells
serve ice from our last buckets. One more willow branch
to mark the day; these strappy leather sandals perfect
for sand-charred paths, and someone is lounging
against an antique cello casually, as if about to play music.
We don’t worry about the ruined maps,
the coffee cups staining the fabrics we’ve acquired
so painstakingly, now. We don’t plan for anything.
We’re looking picturesque, holding a woven bamboo
suitcase as the future dissipates like a $40 fig fragrance diffuser,
the children concentrating on braiding bracelets,
all of our jaunty sunglasses stacked against the glare of the coming…
We were taught in grade school different lessons of survival:
In case of nuclear attack, hide under your desk.
In case of chemical attack, buy duct tape.
Buy a rape whistle. Carry knives. Learn a martial art.
I read old fairy tales, wolves lurking behind trees
and parents ready to kill children. Magic mirrors,
dragons, spells that charm and protect.
Burn this herb to banish ghosts.
Sometimes I imagine the afterlife, puffs of pink
clouds and unicorns, or gold harps, or glass cities
with streets made of emerald. The whole earth
spinning like a child’s marble below, pitiful.
We are told to vaccinate, to educate, to warn.
Traffic tickets, parking signs: bureaucratic safety nets.
Our governments promise safety in exchange for…
I will light a candle, listen to the solar-charged radio for a sign.
Field Guide to the End of the World
If you study the crop circles and the mutations of frogs
long enough, they will whisper their secrets
in the code of alien DNA. If you build a bunker underground,
weigh carefully those you invite to share it. Rent an RV
and a ham radio. Visions of being lifted up to Heaven?
Or maybe just a trip with the family to the seaside?
Break into an underground military mountainside
with just two orphans and a shotgun,
swearing you have the salt that will heal the sick.
You’ve always been a thinker. Keep your notebook and pencil:
someone will have to record a history of plagues and patient zeroes.
Listen to the songs of children around the fire, their wee voices
calling giant caterpillars, nuclear forests and flying squirrels.
The Kingdom may already be at hand. Marshal your resources.
Keep a steady eye on the whirling dervish of the sun,
straining its rays towards us, to blind or protect.
Jeannine Hall Gailey recently served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. She is the author of four books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, Unexplained Fevers, and her most recent, The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, from Mayapple Press. Her work has been featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, and in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Iowa Review and Prairie Schooner. Her web site is www.webbish6.com, and her Twitter handle is @webbish6.