The World After
by Ken Sanes
Searching in the distant future,
I discovered a very different world
from the one I was familiar with.
The roads and abandoned buildings
were like nothing I recognized,
and the land itself had been reshaped,
mostly, I think, by natural forces.
Even the cemetery with my grave in it
was missing, and no stone marker
revealed where it had once been located.
But I did find the ruins of a house
surrounded only by some weeds,
and I thought it might contain
a relic or trace of my own time.
Despite some misgivings, I went in
through an opening in the front wall
and began to conduct my usual search
piles of debris on the floor.
It wasnít long before I found something:
a photograph inside a metal frame,
showing four generations of a family,
smiling, with their arms linked,
may have been their last time together.
On the left side of the family portrait,
an old woman held up the only child
like she was showing him off for the camera.
The other adults looked over at him
as he grinned, basking in the attention.
In another part of the same room,
I discovered what looked like the remains
of a comfortable place to sit and read,
with the shattered remains of a light
and the skeleton of a soft chair.
I pushed back the chair for its final time
as it cracked and collapsed to the floor.
But, as I examined the houseís contents,
it became increasingly clear
that these were the ruins of another humanity,
with another history than the one I knew.
The handwritten letters I discovered,
scattered in what was probably a bedroom,
werenít even readable, and no matter how long
I looked at them, they still contained
whatever secrets they once revealed.
And the oversized rodents, waiting to see
if I would oblige their gnawing hunger
as they scurried along the perimeter,
in and out of the half-broken walls,
werenít like anything I knew, either.
No, I thought to myself, this isnít it;
I still havenít found a connection.
Is it possible that my memories
are themselves just a dream?
Then, as it started to get dark, I walked
outside and noticed twisted pieces of metal
in the empty yard that looked like
they were once part of a machine,
perhaps a vehicle of some sort.
Thatís odd, I thought to myself --
how could I have missed that going in?
At that point, I began to wonder
I was even coming out of the same house.
But I put my doubts off to one side,
and began to cross an expanse of land,
heading toward something I could
almost make out on the north horizon.
Overhead, there was a large moon
and the night sky was full of stars.
But the pattern of the constellations
wasnít the same as the one I knew,
and there was another light in the sky
that was smaller than the moon
but considerably larger than a star.
I looked at it for a long time, unable
to figure out if it was natural or artificial ---
unable to figure out what kind of thing
had added its reflected light to the darkness.
Standing on this barren landscape, between
the ruin and something in the distance,
under the canopy of an almost alien sky,
I realized that I was no longer dead
because my death wasnít part of this world.
I was neither dead nor alive, in an age
too far removed from my own time.
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