Apocalypses come quietly

Illustration by Erin Bundock, Burlington, VT

Apocalypses don’t come smashing down from the heavens, 
destroying civilization in one easy wave of fire
and sending everybody into a frantic scramble to survive twisted political ideals 
and stay alive. 
They don’t steamroll over people’s lives, 
destroying political and social concepts all at once. 
They don’t dry the Earth up all in one giant cloud of dusty red smoke, 
leaving us on a Martian desert land full of prehistoric beasts. 
Apocalypses don’t scream their intentions as they slam down onto our heads, 
and they don’t wipe out life as we knew it, 
not noticeably, anyway.

No, I think that in real life apocalypses arrive so subtly
that people don’t always realize they’re there. 
One simple, reasonable step after another until it’s too late. 
We go on and continue our regular lives, 
reading and writing,
running and swimming and gardening 
because apocalypses
arrive quietly. 
When they do arrive, 
who’s to say that they’re really here? 
This looked like a perfectly natural progression of events, 
one step in front of another, 
and apocalypses 
aren’t like that. 
But how do you know? Have you seen one?

The ruin of civilization
doesn’t happen overnight, 
and it doesn’t really ruin civilization anyway, 
instead, changing it in tiny, little, irrevocable ways
until eventually there’s nothing left and no way to get it back. 
And as apocalypse waltzes toward us, 
it comes so quietly
we don’t even notice. 
We water our plants, 
and tell ourselves the world is normal because they’re still growing. 
But of course they’re growing; 
the Earth doesn’t go dry and barren in an instant. 
It takes longer than that, 
and when the plants do die, 
it’ll be such a slow process
you’ll say it’s just natural, 
that plants don’t live forever 
any more than people do. 
Even as quiet as the end of the world is, 
we silence it.

But there’s a problem with this. 
You see, 
if apocalypses arrive as quietly as I say, 
if they slink in and slide underneath our feet
so gently we don’t even notice them, 
who’s to say when they arrive?
And who’s to say? 
Maybe it’s 
already here.

Poem by Fiona Goodman, Brattleboro, VT. Read more great writing at youngwritersproject.org.