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Ira Desmond Oct 4
Do not ever allow yourself
to reduce the incomprehensible miracle
of your very existence

to basic questions of self-worth.
Do not ever allow your boss to write you off
as nothing more than a worker

who is failing to meet
some arbitrary set of expectations.
Do not ever allow a bully to tell you
that you are nothing more than a child

lacking in physical strength.
Do not ever allow a politician
to boil your being

down to a cheap distillation
of inside jokes and snickering, racist
circumlocutions.

The fact that you are here,
today,
alive and present
and reading these words
is a stentorian, staggering miracle.

We are,
all of us,
perhaps guilty
of occasionally forgetting
this fundamental fact.

But we must remember,
you and I,
and every other being with us,
that we sprang forth from nothing—
absolute oblivion—
into awareness and consciousness
and individuality, and personality
in this gargantuan, freezing, largely empty universe.

Allow me to remind you
that that idea
is entirely incredible—
the purest void was somehow spun into
the totality of your being—
into the infinity of the present moment—
a Möbius-strip mindfuck
expanding outward in space and time
reaching toward all directions simultaneously.

The fact that you and I are here is miraculous.
And the fact that you exist is a miracle.

Do not ever let
our sickly civilization
try to tell you anything to the contrary.
Ira Desmond Aug 10
Saturn’s rings
are disintegrating

and Jupiter’s great red spot
is shrinking

and the ice caps on Mars
are sublimating

and our very own Moon
is slowly untethering itself
from Earth’s gravity.

In eight billion years,
the Sun will turn red and swell up

like a toddler on the verge of tears,
and incinerate

Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars—
all of our histories and fossils,

our legends and loves,
our monuments and our ruins.

You and I will be long gone by then, of course—
nonexistent to the extent

that we’re not even aware of our own
nonexistence.

Some people may think of death
as an inky void,

but it must be far more final than that—
an inky void would be copious by comparison.

What if there is simply nothing
on the other side of the curtain?

Perhaps it would be for the best.

For I never was able to avert my gaze
while driving past a smoldering wreck,

and you never could build up the courage to take a look.
Ira Desmond Apr 18
The walrus lacks
a rudimentary understanding

of the relationship
between seasonal temperatures

and the amount of sea ice
generated annually

in the northern hemisphere,
and cannot formulate

even a basic hypothesis
that might draw a link between

a lack of sea ice and
a massive surge in coastal overcrowding

among walrus populations.
Nor could we expect the walrus

to comprehend that
this overcrowding has become so severe that

many walruses are continually driven
to seek out higher and higher ground,

and may suddenly find themselves
precariously perched atop the tall, frozen, rocky cliffs

of the Russian arctic coast,
hundreds of meters above the sea,

as their pinniped flippers
lose traction, and the rocks and gravel

beneath them give way
under their considerable bulk.

It would be a bridge too far
for us to expect

that the walrus might understand
the anatomy of even his own eye

such that he would know
that the curvature of its lens

is well-suited for underwater vision,
but is, in fact, maladapted

for making spatial judgements
while on land.

And yet,
we are aware of all of these things,

of this horrifying confluence of circumstances
for which we’re at least partly to blame,

and in which the walrus
now finds himself entrapped.

And we watch it all unfold silently,
so passively:

those hulking ruins

as they tumble down
the cliff faces,

one by one,

wild-eyed,
terrified,

bewildered and breaking
in their final moments.
Ira Desmond Dec 2018
Last night,
I dreamt that the friend of a friend had died.

His body floated lifeless on the surface of the Pacific,
tossed about between the Bering Sea whitecaps

like an orca’s seal-pup plaything
while the Arctic wind whipped

and beat the freezing cold water
across his pallid face and through his chestnut hair.

Then his body
began to sink,

its silhouette appearing
against various monotone

canvases of blue
on its trip downward:

a vivid cornflower,
a pelagic cerulean,

a chasm of cold cobalt,
a starless twilight,

a forest of indigo,
a velvet curtain of navy.

Finally,
as it reached the deepest possible shade of midnight—

only a quantum away from black—
it stopped sinking.

There, in that void,
where daylight and color are considered but outlandish theories,

strange fish of all and shapes and sizes
began to surround the decomposing corpse:

Greenland sharks hailing from the frozen arctic,
mantis shrimp from the mangrove labyrinths,

eyeless electric eels from undersea caves near the Galápagos,
vampire squid rising cautiously up out of their World War One trenches,

scores of spindly ***** and pale worms that had ventured far beyond
the safe familiarity of their alien geothermal worlds.

At first, they approached the corpse gingerly,
nibbling only the tips of its hair and fingernails,

and then suddenly, voraciously,
they consumed it—until not even a skeleton remained.

Now, only a single point of light was left
there floating in the void.

And from this single point of light,
where just a moment before the corpse had floated,

a brilliant white lattice structure emerged,
unfurling as would a fern across a forest floor.

It fanned out onto the seabed
and then swept upward, upward

back toward those reaches of sea
where color is known

and fresh air gleefully permeates
that foamy outer membrane that skirts the base of the sky.

Scores of familiar fish began to lift up the crystalline structure—
schools of shimmering sardines,

stately, dignified manta rays,
skipjacks, bluefins, and white-tips,

brilliant cuttlefish, humble pufferfish,
shifty barracuda, gargantuan whale sharks,

all of them
beating their tails in concert

to carry this lattice away,
this measure of a life,

this husk of a soul
at last freed from its earthly bindings.

The fish were carrying it somewhere deeper,
somewhere darker,

to a place that I understood—
even from the inky depths

of my dreaming mind—
that I could not enter.

But then again,
I knew that someday

I would.
Ira Desmond Nov 2018
The downward momentum is clear to me now.
The engine has built up a full head of steam.
I’d try to stop it, if I knew how.

The fires of industry must burn on somehow;
they tend to burn brightest when fuel is extreme.
The downward momentum is clear to me now.

When currents are surging, we shouldn’t allow
the jingoist fringe to swim in the mainstream.
I’d try to stop them, if I knew how.

Civility means more than I can avow,
but poems can only allude to a theme:
The downward momentum is clear to me now.

Each click of a mouse that shouts holier than thou
is a cog in a treacherous clockmaker’s scheme.
I’d try to stop him, if I knew how.

We worshipped the circuit and forsook the plow
in search of a false technological dream.
Our downward momentum is clear to me now.
I’d try to stop us, if I knew how.
Ira Desmond Aug 2018
Being able to wield
the lexicon
of morality

is not the same
as being
a moral person.
Ira Desmond Jul 2018
I do not think
my mind will hold

out much longer.
I forget basic

details of conversations. I
walk into the kitchen

and forget my reason
for having walked

into the kitchen. I can
discern now when

people are being
polite by not

mentioning the fact that
it is the third

or fourth time I've
told that story again.

I am thirty-four
years of age.

Thirty-four
years of age. Thirty-

four years
of age.

I love baseball perhaps
now more than

ever before. It
requires no

memory, no cohesive
narrative, each

moment when the
pitcher releases the

ball its own
microcosm—

its own tick
in an atemporal clockwork

flush with gears but
lacking cogs entirely,

a moment savored
and then quickly

forgotten, like
the taste of a

perfectly ripe summer
strawberry, smothered

by the sweltering haze
of a mid-July afternoon.
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