Witnessing the End

by Rachel Creager Ireland

Autumn Hills

We were told that there would be difficulty,
betrayals, losses, and lack.
We expected to make sacrifices for
love and worthy causes. There
would be demagogues, tyrants, and
CEOs who lacked empathy.
And there would be beauty,
in a face or in art or in nature.
And we were taught to love these things,
to be comforted by them in times of
suffering. But did anyone tell you
there would be days you would
walk the streets openly weeping,
drowning in the world and the grief
of knowing you are witnessing the end.
It’s time to say goodbye to everything,
to giraffes and orcas, the butterflies
that migrate a thousand miles to share
warmth through the winter. To the wild
places that save us. To earth not driven
to hiding from relentless attack by those
who would plunder, extract, and leave
her for dead. And leave us for dead.
Say goodbye to life not owned by profiteers.
We were advised to remember
that time isn’t linear, and we are immortal
beings of light far greater than the
speck of dust we know here now. That
all these things we love are eternal,
in some way we cannot understand.
But still here I am, immersed in
sunlight on grassland in winter,
red-tailed hawk circling overhead.
And there’s a man from a city in Japan,
standing on the Kansas prairie weeping
to discover that there is still such beauty
in the world. Say goodbye to it all, my friend.
The voracious maw won’t stop until
every last drop of water has been tainted, every
wild animal eaten or caged. Every heart
and mind given over to the demagogue
and the masked man behind him. Say
goodbye with every breath and impulse,
every moment, every truck that passes
on the highway, every word or beat or
image clamoring for attention. Goodbye with
every step, walking hip deep in tall grass,
or pounding unyielding pavement of city streets,
or wandering the bright-lit aisles of a dollar store,
openly weeping.

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