Darren Bifford


It’s like in a cartoon, all the forest fires
Leapfrogging fires. Small civilizations caught
In the dirty, say they’re sorry and plead their cases
Ad hoc and brilliantly. “Scared as shit”
Is my summary. Excuses get you
An extra minute. The army is always
Dragging the mutilated
Corpses of the newest emperor
And his son through the streets. It’s no wonder
The sky is filled with frogs. Upturned
The ocean spills its fish and seashells and sharks.
In the old country you could count on fine weather
All summer, vernal festivals, voluptuary laws
Which sanctioned the General Course of Things.
It was a pleasure then, being alive
When a fifth of the world was known. The downturn
Happens when the knowing is over. It’s like
A forgetfulness comes on, a bad cold
That you didn’t know you had until recovery
Commenced. By then, though, you’re dead,
And so it’s the afterlife playing its cards and tricks.
You recall the old neighbors, how they packed
Shoeboxes of photographs. And that cartoon again,
When the talking animals all flee the forest,
Tailed by a great deluge of fire and wind. As if running
Could get you to the somewhere else it’s better to be at.
The great romance was this: there’d always be somewhere to go.
Otherwise there is no literature. As for me, I grabbed a novel
Though I’d never found time for fiction. It’s science fiction now,
Says the Judger. I told you so, says the river, which by now is everything.

Image by Neil Webster, courtesy Red Edge


There must have been a lot of beauty
At the end of empire. Scratch that.
Strictly the usual amount,
More or less, like in a movie
When before he is shot
The soldier considers the dewy grass or the dawn
Over yon golden hills. Which is to say
I doubt it. Consider the fowls of the air and beasts of the field
Christ did not say on the Cross. Why, why, why, why, why, why?
Is closer to the mark. And it was no ordinary day
For those who were otherwise occupied with their lives,
Even given the torturer’s horse scratching its innocent behind on a tree.
For there was a breaking sound in the sky;
We were all as terrified as other slow-witted animals, desirous and hungry.
I’m not getting over this in record time. Oh my heavenly days
Is what my grandmother sighed. Now which book will I take?
Will there be a record player? A mistake in these matters
Will commit us to eternal boredom. Help me
With a Jackson Pollock from the MoMA, whose paintings,
In lieu of small fires or snow storms, will serve to increase our contemplative
Capacity. Now if only we could get some help—I mean,
Help with the moving, not the moaning.
I’ve heard no pianos are housed on the isles of the blessed
Though the wind plays the trees and the trees are willing.
Now that my will is broken I am either left for dead
Or I shall see them forever, my wife, my little boy. They are crossing
Rue St Denis on a winter afternoon, holding hands. Flaring in the mind
Awhile longer like a flare shot to the height from which it falls in the night sky,
Tumbling into wine-dark oceans,
We went down to the ship —  

Darren Bifford on "Habitable Earth in Last Analysis" and "This Sunset Lasts Forever:"
It seems to me both poems use a similar rhetoric to address an identical theme: i.e., the end of
things in general. I see them both as dispatches sent as we're all on our way out the door. The longer line, the loose rhyme, the space for irony--both poems share these features.