Countdown to the End of This World

Frederick Livingston


Trees tear roots loose from soil, coil around necks of chainsaw warriors.
The boiling sea seizes entire cities with seething fingers.
An ocean of once ordinary people swells over fences,
shatters glass, fills their arms with all the things
they’ve poured their dreams into – high definition television sets
to watch static broadcast from abandoned networks.
Our shared last gasp is a sigh of relief, “Thank Xenu!”
Thank Hollywood! Thank God!” We were starting
to worry there was something
we could have done!”

At checkout, a woman fumbles in her worn jacket
for enough coins to buy an apple.
When she comes up short and mutters, embarrassed,
the cashier watches her leave the store
whispering the same mantra on the lips
of a soldier pulling the trigger against his enemy’s skull,
machine drivers tearing down a mountain
to suck out the black marrow,
“I’m just doing my job.”

If you want to know when the world will end, ask the salmon
thrashing life from flesh against a dam standing between
them and an unborn generation. Ask the man
whose family hunted salmon for generations
when you find him shivering in a doorway
in a city built on land stolen from him before he was born.
Ask a mother who lost her son and watched
the officer who shot him walk free.

The most terrifying nightmare a fish ever had was to walk on land.
Tormented by the impossibility of her ravenous imagination,
she threw herself against the shore and sputtered in the air.
The school ridiculed fool after fool who followed
until their distant ancestors grew legs and arms
that wove nets to catch those laughing fish
caught in their own nets of fear.

“The world is poisoned! The end times are here!”
said ancient bacteria suffocating as oxygen flooded the sky…
said the islanders as the last tree was cut…
said every generation better able to imagine apocalypse
beyond the cliff edge of history
than an endless valley of new beginnings.

Check the sky for our puppet masters who pull the strings.
Check under the bed for monsters, howling in the night.
What is more terrifying than to find
only each other, striving and stumbling
and dancing and loving?

When our ship sprung a leak, every cynic on board was quick
to let us know they told us so. As they bathe in the vindication
of the sinking hull, a few hopeful fools are drifting away
on rafts we’ve woven from frayed hopes, day by day.

A rising tide lifts all ships. This is true,
but how many of us own a ship?
Have you checked for leaks?

The future is as bleak as our apathy,
as boundless as our love.

Here it comes…





In the liminal space between food justice, ecology and peace, Frederick Livingston plants seeds. His work has appeared in literary magazines, academic journals, public parks and bathroom stalls. Compelled by the power of metaphor to shape our world, he hopes to share in telling new stories.