After the End
The climax arrived last week,
days or years after the prologue.
The earth has stopped shaking;
smoke plumes left the shells of buildings;
the dust that hovered for days
has settled on the ground.
This morning the hero looks out
from a porch three hundred miles away,
on a sunrise orange and red—
just like the one that announced
yesterday’s arrival, bright promise
of an ordinary suburban day.
He lingers, putters, walks inside
past a dormant phone to sit,
flips the television on,
passes the latest petty squabbles
and lands on Three's Company,
with Jack again in quite the pickle.
He sighs, a Mona Lisa smile on his lips
for a character who never wonders
what he might do today.
This is the final poem in the National Poetry Month challenge, so endings were on my mind. The idea of what comes next has always affected me; I live in a world where projects move quickly and intensely, then end, and we move constantly between first and fourth gears, with little in between. Gearing up can be hard, but it means moving into a stream of activity that resembles a plot: we know what needs to be done, and experience and instruction work together so we know how to do it.
Stopping, though, means leaving the comfort of predetermined work and into the unknown, from the constant push through to needing to create the motion again. I suspect this is true of any major ending; the transition is much more difficult than the action.
This poem explores the idea from the perspective of a hero after the ending action, trying to adjust to life in the denouement, in an almost cruel juxtaposition of sameness and change. It uses a verb tense shift to contrast what was from what is, the remains of catastrophic change from a staid present. Three's Company works as a layered choice showing both change and sameness; the formula stayed mostly the same even as the cast rotated, but exists now only in syndication with John Ritter having passed.