When The World Ends (I Hope It Ends in Blinding White Nothing)
we watched the snow
bury us in obscurity
looking out our windows
all we saw was
and…behold…it was good
when the storm ended we
crawled from our caves
and were blinded by
this would be our new world
we grabbed our shovels
dug each other free
carved new roads
claimed what was ours
and…behold…it was very good
This past weekend my homeland got the largest snow fall in November in 120 years while we suffered in Southern California with upwards near 90 degrees and Santa Ana winds. Suffering is relative, I guess, but I miss snow quite a bit. I’ve tried to convince myself otherwise but there’s something about watching the seemingly peaceful snow, thinking it harmless, then finding it has commanded authority over your life. It tells you where and how you will go, as evidenced by the above photo. The snow determines what you will wear and how you will wear it. If you try and kick it off your boots it’ll find its way up your pants.
When the World Ends is one of my older poems. When I began writing I was obviously awful at it, I’ve improved just enough to recognize just how awful I was and still am, but the above is the first poem I ever wrote that I kind of liked. I’ve toyed with it plenty over the past four-five years but have always found myself coming back to a fairly close edit of the original draft I wrote during one of the more memorable weeks of my life.
The storm began around 3pm. It was big fluffy snow so I thought I’d be safe reading at Starbucks before safely driving home when class was cancelled. Which was an unfortunate fortune because the big fluffy stuff grew into ThunderSnow, all the roads that led home were closed until the next night. So my coworkers closed up shop early and we got a room at the hotel behind the café, it being too dangerous for anyone to drive home.
Stranded, we watched the storm through our second-story window. The surrounding landscape was obscured by the snow, we were only able to catch glimpses of the made new and strange alien terrain when lightning would strike. We ordered a pizza from the sports bar not twenty yards away from the hotel and when we went to pick it up we could feel the charge from the Storm’s lightshow racing from flake to flake to flake to our freezing flesh. It took twenty minutes to walk the few short feet to the bar, the furious wind holding us back. When we eventually entered the bar its stranded patrons gave us a standing ovation.* Returning to the hotel was no easier with the wind to our back, it was all we could do to not be bowled over into the ever growing snow banks.
The next morning when we woke up the main roads were clean enough for everybody but me to drive home. They did. After digging out my car that wouldn’t start I sat waiting for salvation and wrote this poem. A regular customer, an off-duty cop, serendipitously arrived shortly after I finished the first draft and gave me a lift across town to a friend’s house, a friend who happened to be stranded elsewhere. There I sat alone for hours reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and the Damned.
The world looked much smaller after the storm, the snow having wiped the slate clean. We were buried under the realization of our own futility but drawn together for warmth, comfort, and survival. All that was left was the good work of starting fresh – the digging out of new lives and carving out new roads.
*I’m not joking everybody in the bar actually gave us a standing ovation. Granted, they were mostly drunk and my buddy and I were quite the pair looking like, respectively, Yukon Cornelius and a candy cane in a stylish Navy Trim Fit Double Breasted Peacoat returning home victorius from battle with a Yeti.