in history, will begin to die in great numbers
during the first decades of the 21st Century.
How often have you made love to someone
because the Angel of Death passed by your door
throwing an icy shadow over your life—
just to let you know He's still there
in case you forgot, in case you thought
anything had changed in all these decimated centuries.
Something like that must have happened
way back then, while Hitler danced and Mussolini
grimaced for the camera. And even later,
after it was over and everyone breathed a sigh
of relief people went right on making love for awhile
and the babies kept coming and coming.
A great wave passed through the generations,
a tide of children washed up here
as if Life wanted to repopulate the world—
all those empty places at the table, all those families
shorn of parents or wiped out completely:
grandparents, aunts and uncles, even the dog.
But now it's time to call the children home.
Night's coming and shadows stretch
across the lawn as stars begin to appear
like purified souls in the blue anteroom
of evening. Death stands on tiptoe in His enormous
doorway whistling softly, as if to Himself.
And in Heaven it's quiet: a bunch of pale
administrators chewing the fat under a single
light bulb, the moon, making them drowsy,
filling in the hollows under their eyes
so you can see they haven't slept for ages.
A little bureau somewhere on the outskirts of Time.
So no one's alarmed when the first shy spirits
appear, almost transparent in the garish
light. No one even glances up when a few more
arrive awkwardly trying out their new
wings. They're no more bothersome
than a few spectral moths hovering about the room.
But soon an almost inaudible hum
starts up, then grows louder, like the approach
of locusts or an army of men whose feet
rustle on the pavement as they march to war.
Soon the room is swarming with souls
beating wildly about in their mortal confusion.
And you are there, too, as I am,
and your brother or sister, the first girl you ever
dated, the center on your high school
football team, your best friend—
all of us somewhere in that general tumult of souls
fresh out of the story of the world.