We could see the end coming from where we stood
when they first pointed it out, a tiny glowing particle
in the night sky, its tail a loose dangling of mangled light.
We watched experts on the TV speculate
on how to change its trajectory or blast it with strong
electromagnetic pulses. We wanted desperately to know
when and how and what it would feel like
when the end came.
Soon, scientists walked out of interviews, one by one.
Then the newscasters left to go home, their cameras
filming empty chairs. Finally, it came down to just you
and me, our lives so split, we merely nodded in passing
but in the ambiance of impending death’s pink glow,
we remembered the taste of rapture, traded our weapons
of mass destruction for the lure of flesh, the need
We could leave no mark here except on each other.
We could save nothing to outlast cosmic dust.
Wormwood bowed at last to the first order
to be fruitful, the primeval need to multiply, usurped.
We sent our ecstasy into the universe unhinging
our catastrophe. And now, we are gone
while the speck grows to a red shimmering flower
opening its petals.
— Ann Thornfield-Long
Ann Thornfield-Long lives in East Tennessee. Her work appears in venues such as The Tennessee Magazine, Tennessee Women of Vision and Courage (Crawford and Smiley 2013) and The Tennessee Sampler (Peter Jenkins and Friends 1985). She’s an established journalist, editor and publisher for regional newspapers. She has also worked as a nurse and first responder and dispatcher for The Norris Volunteer Fire Department. She has taught creative writing classes, and is the sister of Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, Dan Luzadder, with whom she maintains great sibling rivalry.
Editor’s Notes: It’s not that often that my own work inspires another’s. But here is the case where it did. Ann wrote this poem after reading my poetry collection, Apocalypse (Alban Lake Publishing, July 2015). The image is from Hubble: “In a dress rehearsal for the rendezvous between NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft and comet 9P/Tempel 1, the Hubble Space Telescope captured dramatic images of a new jet of dust streaming from the icy comet.
The images are a reminder that Tempel 1’s icy nucleus, roughly the size of central Paris, is dynamic and volatile. Astronomers hope the eruption of dust seen in these observations is a preview of the fireworks that may come 4 July, when a probe from the Deep Impact spacecraft will slam into the comet, possibly blasting off material and giving rise to a similar dust plume.” (Credit: NASA, ESA, P. Feldman (Johns Hopkins University), and H. Weaver (Applied Physics Lab))
Artistically, this Hubble image has a foreshadowing effect, with the inset image being the consequence (Deep Impact hit the big screen in 1998, giving seekers of disaster cinema what New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin called a ‘costly comet thriller.’ (Paramount))