Nuclear testing in North Korea
and untreatable tuberculosis in South Africa
and giant asteroids hitting the earth
and the cancer I used to have
leave me gasping in bed,
tangled and sweating,
sure that this might be
the last night
I will lie next to my love.
I kept a blanket in a plastic bag
with a large rock to hold them down
on the roof behind the chimney
when I was eleven,
and every evening, just after dusk,
I crawled across the sandpaper shingles, pebbling my knees,
shushing myself with each audible scrape,
and leaned against the chimney bricks
with the blanket around my shoulders
to watch Venus blinking through the dark.
I invented prayers, I yearned, I pled with black space.
I would go to Venus, I would wait through the night,
and they would come for me,
they who would know me,
the ones who would recognize the vibration in my body
that beat out the beacon of my energetic fingerprint.
They would see it through the pale skin on my naked chest.
The whole night sky could see me.
They would know, they would know.
I think of her, waiting to be found,
and I remember that she, too, used to gasp in bed
and twist in her sheets,
that she sat on that roof wrapped in a stolen blanket
because there was nothing for her on the ground.
The Cold War was going to drop the Bomb,
and everyone's flesh was going to burn,
but the Venusians would be pulled to her.
They would know her fingerprint heaving,
beaming out through the darkness,
hear her heart thumping in time
to the planet's cyclic streaming.
There is always this, though:
reaching for love and fearing its destruction.
Both are inevitable.
We will reach for love,
and we will burn up at the end of our existence,
and I will always be this pulsing fingerprint,
waiting for love with a bare chest
and staring down its chronic vulnerability
to human extinction.