Before the world went to hell my sweetheart
worked at a diner
near the marshes and before that was a physicist in the desert, but now
we were on the move;
the whole country had uprooted—she recognized an old woman
soaking acorns in the river
as a colleague from her first laboratory job. Southerners
had migrated bodily north
leaving fabric shreds in the mesquite, and the west was on fire. My sweetheart
steamed a pot of wild mustard flowers
by the roadside, rain sizzling on the lid. Her shadow,
my breath, the afternoon
that moved on forever: people theorized the earth’s orbit
was off kilter, time
had stopped moving right, and suddenly though we’d brushed snow
from our walkways
that morning, the sun began to rise two hours earlier. Smoke
gathered in corners
of the sky, and the peach trees budded, then blossomed
and bore fruit
in a week, but the fruit was mealy and filled with larvae. This was back
when we had walkways,
our own houses, cars, my sweetheart was a stranger in a lab coat
in the east
and I had never tracked a deer all day then field dressed it,
then dragged it home
across wild grass grown tall over an emptied city.

Miriam Bird Greenberg