“The world is not ending! The world is not ending!”

To enjoy these features as broadsides, drag the images to your desktop. Or simply scroll down to read in plain text.

These poems are also available, in slightly different format, on Medium.


after Robert Burns

I awake one night in April to the sounds and lights of a world ending. The floor shakes, thin walls quake. A small brown mouse evacuates her little hole. The river a hundred feet away must be swollen by now I think. Make myself hear rushing water, flash floods. And while the world is ending I lose track of my body. My heartbeat disappears and thunder rattles inside an empty skull. My legs are gone. Rain pelts the canvas harder and the mouse seeks shelter not far from my shiny sleeping bag. This is it, this is everything: Two warm, quivering bodies poised for Armageddon. The next morning my mouse is gone. I walk alone to the edge of the river. My pulse returned in the night. The river is placid, lazy, and I am disappointed. The world has not ended. My hair and fingernails never even stopped growing.

A Spectacle

My mother and I are in the attic, lying on an old lace-blanketed mattress that once belonged to some distant dead relative. She woke me, told me to look through the window. Lightning turns the sky orange for seconds at a time. I don’t like it. It reminds me of the dinosaurs. I am six. Instead I search the ceiling for patterns like an ancient navigator, not letting the brightened sky distract from the song I am searching for. The world is not ending! The world is not ending! sing this creaking bed, this stale lace, and that portrait propped against the wall beside it in chorus. My mother stares skyward rapturous, eyes nearly clouded over with every flash, every creak, and I wonder who is this woman who so relishes disaster, who would swaddle her eldest child in ancestral lace to watch the world unravel?

I hear the song again now, different:

                                     The world is not ending

                                     The world is not

                                     ending the world

                                     is not ending the world.


Previous work by Heather Tourgee has been featured in The Hopper, Split Rock Review, and Yankee Magazine.

Featured image: Georg Flegel (1566–1638), Dessert Interrupted. Detail.
Featured image: Harmen Steenwyck (c.1612 — after 1656). Vanitas.