Scouring Pots While the World Ends

by Elizabeth Koopman
Wild Poetry Forum
Second Place, December 2018
Judged by Jeanette Beebe

The world is ending.
Tom is playing banjo
and I am cooking supper.
Some crazy shot a dozen people
in a synagogue.
The president continues to lie
about everything he can get his hands on.

And did I mention that the world is ending?

I don’t mean “My world is ending.”
I have grief of my own,
uncertainty, and fear,
but that’s being alive.
I’m talking about The World.

The president says
he’s greater than sliced bread
and all the rest is a lie.
But that’s not the end of the world.
Nor are the shootings
or the pipe bombs
or the evil baby who
threw a tantrum and became
a Supreme Court Justice.
These are deep cracks
but can heal.

But I’m telling you the world is ending.
Are you listening?
It has already begun.
The poles are losing their ice.
Islands are awash,
heat waves longer.
What doesn’t drown will burn
before we are ready to die.

So why am I washing dishes now,
while Tom wipes the counters?
Because we are animals
with hearts and minds;
because habit is strong
and we are attached
to the good there is.
But we can’t forget
the world is ending.

This is not a perfect poem: the language drifts into cliché and invective that isn't convincing and doesn't feel fresh. But it is big. It is ambitious. It has something to say. And its message is conveyed in a way that's both competent and slightly surprising. The strategy is mature and not distracting — that is, the language still shines through. The poem is strongest in moments like "because habit is strong / and we are attached" (final stanza) and "Are you listening? / It has already begun." These lines are quite good: "What doesn't drown will burn / before we are ready to die." --Jeanette Beebe