Enthusiasts of Ruin

Enthusiasts of Ruin
Margaret Wack

When you imagine the world burst to pieces
all glittering and technicolor, screams like chimes
or hosannas, fire and flood, your body turns
toward it humming like a dowsing fork

to rain. You think, when the world burns,
that your hands will never smell like soap
again but only like the coats of dogs, black
dirt, clean smoke, the smell of rain when

it comes. You think, your body will hurt
always as if pulled by the wind like the sheet
of a sail, as if all your muscles had been
stretched taught for a very long time but can

now relax. Maybe you will plant vegetables
and die early. Maybe you will die. Even small
cataclysms have the power to bewitch:
the house burns down, you join a convent, spend

your evenings making candles, pray your soul
thin, burn your bones clean. The baby dies
and you turn prophet, go shoeless, wander
the desert, become pure. At night you can close

your eyes and picture it: hair wild, eyes clear,
soul stringless. You think, anything to keep
from wearing shoes. Anything to keep
from being so clean always. You think,

when the world ends you will finally remember
the smell of your own body and because of this
you will no longer need to be touched. You think
of animals who chew through bone to escape

traps. You think, all of this will happen, the burning
and the dying and your body failing cell by rotten
cell until the earth swallows you, until everyone
you ever loved is a ragged shade who does not

know your name. This will all come anyway.
There is that old urge, either to devour
or be devoured. Your stomach keens. You have
filed your teeth as sharp as stakes and have stripped

yourself bare of cloth and memory, have lit
the edges of your life ablaze, are knocking
on the door of that ruined world, waiting
for it to let you in.

Margaret Wack has had her work previously published in Strange Horizons, Twisted Moon, and the Santa Fe Reporter, among others. More can be found at margaretwack.com.