Six times life has trembled,
At the passing of apocalypse.
Three causes were possible:
From heaven, asteroids could fall,
And throw up curtains on the world,
Or passing waves of cosmic fire
Would strip away the clouds.
From hell, the waters of Styx
Might slip through terrestrial cracks,
Then rise as gas,
To heat the world as sheets of floating glass.
Between the two:
Could mediate the flow
Of Earthly poisons.
Of the three apocalypses
Born on Earth,
Their horsemen are:
The progenitors of atmosphere:
Then Archeopteris, first of the trees,
And inventor of the root,
The apes who play with fire.
Apocalypse number one was caused
When Cyanophyta -
Named for the blue-green colour
Possessed by these bacterial worms -
Learned to inhale the Sun.
They breathed in photons,
Filtered through a heavy atmosphere,
And exhaled an ocean of oxygen,
That filled the skies with ******.
Then the world was a canvas painted
With a single simple transformation:
The land – which then was only iron –
Was touched, naked
By the breath of blue snakes
And so the wide metallic continent of Ur,
Was racked from coast to coast
The world’s iron skin absorbed oxygen like cream;
So that, when the global epithelium
Could take no more,
The new air rose,
And thinned the heights,
And all the gathered warmth of centuries
Escaped into the stars.
Then – an interlude of flame –
Comets fell on reddened ice,
And the planet’s molten core restored
The stratospheric glass,
And the world was hot once more.
First of the trees,
As plant life rose to giants,
The primal soil of Gondwana
By the evolution of the root.
As vascular limbs drilled down to earth,
They plundered minerals,
From which these new goliaths
And then, upon the giants’ deaths,
Their carcasses were ill received
By little lives
Who could not hold their salt.
Then came the chaos of holy war:
Heaven rained and hell spilled up,
And so passed end times three and four,
Up to the kaleidoscope of teeth and claws
That was the age of dinosaurs.
Now the fifth apocalypse
A worldstorm in a meteor,
So named for baby birds
And the sound of Armageddon:
A knight in igneous armour,
Who killed the dragons of Pangaea.
Now, to the sixth.
As yet far less fatal than the rest,
But the first apocalypse
With eyes and ears,
Who sees the fire its engines breath,
And to its own destructiveness attests.
We began in the trees,
And once the planes were cleared of predators
By mighty Chicxulub,
We moved out onto the grass,
Stood up and freed our hands,
And learned to play with fire.
With it we loosed the energy
In roasted meat,
And poured the new-found resource
Then wielding sapience,
We humans spread:
The first global superpredator,
We preyed on adults of apex species,
Tamed the world,
Then dreamt of gods
Who placed us at its helm.
We noticed then,
The manifold atomic dots
On the cosmic dice that cast us;
And stuttered in shock.
Our dreams of stewardship
Were dashed on revelations,
That we are the chaos
In the inherent synchrony of dust.
Refusing all potentials
That mirror the errors of our youth,
We let the title ‘sentinel’
Drift from loosened fingertips,
Any now by morbid self-assertion,
We mark ourselves:
The selfish sixth apocalypse.