Alysa Salzberg

Alysa Salzberg
Paris, France
December 31
Writer, copy editor, translator, travel planner. Head servant to my cat.
A reader, a writer, a fingernail biter, a cat person, a traveller, a cookie inhaler, an immigrant, a dreamer. …And now, self-employed! If you like my blog and if you're looking for sparkling writing, painstaking proofreading, nimble French-English translation, or personalized travel planning, feel free to check out


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JUNE 11, 2012 7:39PM

The World's End

Rate: 32 Flag
the world’s end 
wasn’t when the light of a faraway malevolent star
shot forth to touch earth
like a seething spear,
but rather in the days before,
when we knew there was no solution
to what would come.
no bodies had been instantly incinerated,
but already hearts had turned to ash.
no one went to work any longer
kids could eat candy whenever they liked,
everyone stayed awake till all hours.
there was abandon, 
but no one felt joy.
except perhaps those whose worlds had already ended 
even before the news of this oncoming calamity,
he who holds out a hand 
to a loved one in the ground,
asking to be taken away as well
or gamblers who’ve lost everything
-- which is what we realized we all were now
as we moved like fireburnt stalks
in the stillness or the wind,
wondering unspeakingly which
we’d last feel on our skin.
This poem was written in response to JD Smith's Iron Poet Challenge Open Call (not because of my panic at coming onto OS after a weekend away and finding no cover page and feeling like my world was falling apart).  The challenge was (quoted from JD's post):
Write a poem...any form...about the end of Earth as we know it on December 21st of 2012


1) Must be written from the point of view of any living organism on this planet, be it human, insect, bacterium, or koala bear!!!   :)

2) Cannot use the words or form of the words "destroy," "catastrophe," "asteroid," or "alignment."

3) Cannot use the word "and"

4) Include at least one OS guest in your poem by avatar name.       ........Example....I could actually have "Little Kate" or "designator" in my piece.

Comments should include "IP#10"   Please IM J D Smith with a heads up so he'll see the piece.

I just saw that JD seems to have compiled the poems - and there are so many great ones. But if you're feeling in an apocalyptic poetry kind of mind, why not give it a shot?  Let J D know if you do write one, by PM-ing him, and maybe he'll add you to the list, as well.  

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"except perhaps those whose worlds had already ended
even before the news of this oncoming calamity"

How sad you would have to be to find joy in the destruction of the world. Great imagery.
I've been away from OS for a few days and have a lot of reading to catch up on - unfortunately, it's really late here and I've got to start getting ready for bed. But I should hopefully catch up soon. Hope you guys are doing well!
phyllis - Thanks for reading and I'm sorry - that last comment I posted wasn't a response to you, just a general message, of course.

Thank you for your kind words about this poem. I couldn't help but think how there are people out there for whom, tragically, the end of the world has already come. I hope neither kinds of world's ends ever happen for any of us here.
You nailed it. I loved "like fireburnt stalks in the stillness or the wind." (And we're back from the abyss, for the moment ...)
there was abandon but no one felt joy.
This is terrific Alysa.
Eeesh. So cosmically sobering. I stood there and wept. I guess I really don't have any problems this afternoon. Tears of infinite catastrophe have cleared my sight.
Packed full of strong, emotional imagery.
Fantastic writing.
Two enthusiastic "thumbs up" :-)
I loved where you took this to the "days before." And your last four lines were perfect.
Oh, Alysa. This rocked me. It's so deep and terrible and...well...REAL.

P.S. Does JD know you've added to the mix?
OH heck yes I'll add this amd more.....but wow...THIS ONE ROCKS!!!!
This one s a goodie! One word: singed....
Cool. The end timed with today's missing cover....the end for some.
Alysa, I'm so happy to see that you've joined in too! A poem from you is a real treat. Thank you!
So sadly beautiful and beautifully sad...
This is just incredibly well done, Alysa...

"in the stillness or the wind,
wondering unspeakingly which
we’d last feel on our skin."

Personally, I hope it's touch.
PS. Gave it my own shot...
What a subject! Great contribution Alysa: The opening lines really drew me in!
You did a great job with the theme and produced a beautiful poem about a harrowing subject. Not sure I understand the rules (I seem to be saying that a lot lately) but you are spot on in my book. R
You are in the anthology...and have more rates than it does!
wondering....what it will be like. I don't want it to happen. I want everything to be ok. vivid images.
Alysa, I felt that viral scheme of belief colliding with the reach of our being, trying to hold the moment in your hand -- somehow understand the meaning of our world ... now.
Appreciate this expansive sense that you have given us. Do give us more.
This is heavy - but beautifully written and said. I've certainly had days when I've felt like this. Then I wake up the next morning and have hope again.
I thought it was the worlds end of OS today and imagined it was because they had eaten eating candy and stayed up all night.:)
Loved this Ms S..
I'm glad OS came back on line in time for me to read this, before the end of days arrived. When the real end of the world comes, I think we should let you write the obituary.
Alysa: This was outstanding. ... Welcome back. R.
well done and I don't mean incinerated. ;)
i am ambivalent about all the damn rules of this,
but happy it inspired dear A to wax poetic.
"the world’s end

in the days before,
when we knew there was no solution
to what would come.

already hearts had turned to ash."

that is haunting.
the end is not an event, it is a process.

we humans. gamblers who'd lost everything. shit.
yeah, maybe.
"there was abandon but no one felt joy". That says it all, Alysa.
Gadzooks, Alysa, this powerful! My sense of the poetic is limited. Poems that work for me first grab my id in an iron grip and then force my neocortex to examine the damage. This poem does that. It wastes not a single word and does precisely what it sets out to do. It seems written from the top down, i.e. in the mind, with the gut advising and occasionally overriding. You start at the point Eliot leaves off. The whimper turned to screech before the scorch, and your brilliant image of the "malevolent star" touching Earth brings into vivid focus Michelangelo's Creation, with the God figure now horned and the finger a piercing spear. This is a breathtaking work!
Beautiful and complicated and sad (and and and)... Righteous shout out to JD who is a poetic genius, I agree.
i wish i was as old and clever and
MATURE as matt when he
says, rightly,
"seems written from the top down, i.e. in the mind, with the gut advising and occasionally overriding. "
I always liked the Buddhist thinking types who say there is no permanence, thus world will end when (not if) it ends.

Certainly the world each of us produces to surround ourselves in our lives will end when we end. Having forgotten to have children, that conclusion seems relevant to me.
Terrific. I too never feel confident reviewing poetry, but this just really works and is very evocative.
I wish we didn't all see this coming...
Thanks for reading, guys, and I am honored by your comments. I never know if people will like my poetry - or anything I write, for that matter, but I feel like poetry is even trickier.

J D - Thank you so much for this great challenge, and for still allowing me to be included on your list. I hope the people who didn't already know about it, will check it out and read the other excellent responses - including your own!
OS Readers' Picks - Wow! Thank you so much!
Really well done. Also the way I'd imagine it. Thanks for this.
Stunning! So much in every line.

"there was abandon,
but no one felt joy."

Funny how those lines reminded me of alcoholics and addicts. The parallel is chilling.