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Published: Wed Apr 15 2020
The Long Emergency

The government’s belief in resource-panic grew.
We watched them arm their imagination with
soldiers and detention centers. I, too, collaged
disasters into a version of the future where
it rained iron across silt-filled houses. How easy
to picture you, dear one, trying to carry
our child somewhere safe, half driven mad
by tidal surge, wreckage, your way lit by the hulls
of burning cars. To watch from the balcony
as the storms come closer. To see in the denuded
fields our future. My mind rushed to the very end
because it was, by definition, a wall: a wall
could contain my fear. My mind rushed water
up the sides of the windows, my mind stripped
sound from the forests, made us as close to wild
as we could be. Love, how to tell you, this was constant:
apocalypse a missing tooth my mind’s tongue
ran to. I’d be in the car, daughter in back, radio on
a song she liked, and be answering some small
question, how a stick shift works, or what the march
was about—and in my other self I’d be wondering
how far up our street the floods would lap, where
we could go for food when the crops failed. I laid
my shining dark thoughts onto every space like
gold leaf, shook foil, like I’d smudged out our life
again on the palimpsest to write over. I once was
a child who made ghosts too real for friends,
spent a life sharpening the blade of my
imagination until it could sculpt any substance,
quickly whittle back what is into its truest form.
With what was undoing, undone, I had made
myself a body. I tried, whispering to myself:
We will begin human history again. It quieted
no fears. The dreams nibbled at the places
in my flesh that looked like grass.

See what's inside AGNI 91

Sasha West’s first book, Failure and I Bury the Body (Harper Perennial, 2013), was a winner of the National Poetry Series and the Texas Institute of Letters First Book of Poetry Award. Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, AGNI, Kenyon Review Online, Crazyhorse, Copper Nickel, and elsewhere. She is associate professor of creative writing at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. (updated 4/2020)

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