What spilled glasses we’ll be
when the disaster is over!
What friable underbrush,
what sluggish dust now,
but what tipsy geese, what
soused bathing suits we’ll
be when the disaster is over!
And what slack clotheslines too!
What permissive kissers,
and even what wistful spitters
once this is over! What amorous
infants, and rascally figments!
What unflappable pageant
contestants strutting brusquely
over broken heels won’t we be
whenever the disaster’s
messenger confesses it’s over?
What derisible fibbers,
what aisle blockers, and infinite
talkers. What abundant
dunces we can go back to being
again once the disaster’s over!
What gregarious locusts
we’ll be this summer!
Imagine the clatter of our
sleek and hungry flourishing.
Click here to read Joshua Jones on the origin of the poem.
Image by Bishnu Sarangi on Pixabay, licensed under CC.2.0
I wrote “When” in late spring of 2021 in the midst of a lot of talk about the pandemic ending and people finally being able to enjoy the summer. It wasn’t difficult to imagine the toll our “revenge spending” was going to take on the environment, and now we’re seeing the economic consequences of it too.
More personally, my wife was (and is still) struggling with a chronic migraine disorder that predated the pandemic. While the world was celebrating the anticipated end of its disaster, ours wasn’t letting up any time soon. I couldn’t help experiencing the world’s optimism as cruelty.
But during all this, I stumbled on an article about locust swarms by Haley Cohen Gilliand in National Geographic. It made me think about the way that our disasters have so little concern for us. The locusts swarm because of environmental pressures and their biology. The famine they cause is a consequence devoid of intent or morality. The poem grew out of that concluding metaphor.