Yearning for Apocalypse

(David Wagoner)

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. you must let it find you.


I’m struck that in this poem, it is a willingness to become intimately acquainted with the natural world that provides the antidote to lost-ness.

Today, I miss the Natural World. Today, concrete is not my friend. I grieve for the soil beneath the cracked and ugly blacktop outside of my window. My eyes strain to see the ghosts of Native Americans, wild buffalo and other such things about which I know far too little. I secretly hope for a terrible apocalypse so the roots of trees and weeds and grasses can slowly conquer every suffocating square inch of pavement in the world and reclaim what was once theirs—until I remember that neither I nor anyone I love would be there to breathe it in and bless it.

In August of 2003, most of the Northeastern United States experienced a blackout. I remember that I was sitting in a book store when it happened, and assumed the problem was limited to the building I was in. I remember overhearing two strangers saying something about “New York City.” I remember sitting in my room, eating ice cream with my housemates so it wouldn’t go to waste.

But why don’t I remember going outside and looking up at the stars that night? Did I not think that this might be my last and only ever opportunity to be hundreds of miles from human-made lights that illuminate everything and eliminate all wonder?

Could everyone please just turn out your lights one more time? Let’s all step outside and look up at the stars together. Shh… Please don’t say anything. Let’s all—all of us—just tilt our heads back and look silently at the universe. Just for a minute.

Here we are.