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Performance After the End of the World by Talin Tahajian

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What’s next, she asks. Home from the hospital with a tube and a bag on her side. She looks at all of us expectantly, as if the answer is a fruit I can pull out of my pocket and hand out to her. What’s next is you are going to die, I want to say. Probably not the best advice. But is there anything else to say at this point. We are all standing there as if waiting to synchronise all our clocks.

What is the language for when you pass from one life to the next. When you say goodbye do you mean that this parting is a good one. How do you pack for the next journey where you can’t even bring your body.

The night has fooled me before. What I thought was a winking star was a plane slowly slicing sky. How do you disguise a blessing. How do you bless an ending.

Keep your wits about you, I’ve been told before. If I drop you in the middle of Manila, can you go home, I’ve been told before. Memorise the names of streets. Memorise corners. Memorise your face and your voice and your smile and the way your body offers comfort. 

Wish I can take you to where nothing hurts. Wish the end is where I can say, it’s not so bad, see, it’s not so bad. I watch the water flow out of your lungs. You are about to leave home and I don’t know yet how lost I’ll be.

Performance After the End of the World
Talin Tahajian

The only piece of advice I’ve got for anyone
is to shout your precious name into the rain
& wait for a response. I’ve never been good
at caring very much about language except
when it matters the most. Look up. The sky
has never seemed bigger. Days when clouds
are so low it’s like the air is a ghost & every
person is a ghost & in a way that’s almost
comforting, bodies aren’t really bodies at all.
When you meet a body or a boy in the street
so long after the light has gone & every star
seems amazing. The sky as an appendage
to a whole other life. Have you ever thought
of the galaxy as something so infinitely big
it’s almost irrelevant. Bodies that whisper
at night like something amazing. Like every
sad poet, I am obsessed with the sky at night.
As if we could ever forget the horned moon
of our ancestors. My language has been called
diaphanous & imprecise. But you can cut into it
with a knife. When I look at a magnificent
white museum with so many dead objects
I can only think of it collapsing into a vicious
ocean. Water will exist long after we do. When
my body exists, I can feel something warm
as water swell up in my chest as if remembering
some primordial dream. We whisper to each
other in the dark as bodies do & the lights
flicker on. This is how electricity works in cities
that haven’t heard voices in thousands of years.
Imagine this planet once the world has grown
through it again. I feel bloodless. I feel like
the dust that created the universe. The earth
as all sea, just like Ovid imagines it. The ocean
as one gorgeous excuse for drowning. I feel
like the water inside of me. I turn to the boy
or body in the street & beg Tell me something
real Tell me something real & from nowhere,
an answer I will take you to it & I will take you
to it & I will take you to it & I will take you to it

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This poem appeared in Hobart, published in 2017. Shared here with profound gratitude.

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