A collage of the words "I can't stop thinking about the timeline where the asteroid misses" on a cream background with red and blue shapes
Alicia Tatone

Disaster Means ‘Without a Star’

A poem for Sunday

Sixty-six million years after the end of the world, I click purchase
on an emergency go bag from Amazon. When it arrives, I’ll use my teeth
to tear open the plastic, unzip the pack stitched by girls who look like me
but for their N95s, half a judgment day away, no evacuation plan in sight.

Another episode of the present tense, and I can’t stop thinking
about the timeline where the asteroid misses, Earth ruled eternally
by the car-hearted and walnut-brained. Meanwhile, I’m merely gorging
on the butterfly effects of ashes, ashes; reaching for the oat milk

while, hundreds of feet below, a chalk line marks the moment we were all
doomed. We were done for. We were science fiction before science,
or fiction. One billion judgment days later, I’m alive and ashamed
of my purchases; I’m afraid of being afraid; I’m the world’s worst mother.

My sister calls, and it’s already too late for things to be better. Every mistake,
an asteroid that’s already hit, history already mushroomed into one million species
of unfit, their fossilized corpses already forming coastlines, austere offices.
This year was a layer cake of catastrophe long before any of us could,

biologically speaking, have been imagined. Human History, a front parlor
infinitely painted over with massacre, and into the fray came I, highly allergic,
quick to cry, and armed with fat fists of need. I broke everything I touched.
I got good grades. I was told nothing was more noble than to ensure

my children would eat. I learned to take a chicken apart with my hands,
to fill in a Scantron, cry on cue. Sixty-six million years after the last
great extinction, six to eight business days before the next one, I whispered
Speak to a fucking agent into the hold music to trigger the system into connecting

me with a “real person.” I avoided coughing in public, though it was too late.
I applied for a BIPOC farming intensive, though it was too late for the earth
to yield anything but more corpses. New species of horror sequence
were already evolving: election bot; cluster bio-bomb; driverless wife.

I muttered curses to keep the deepfakes away, studied the stars for signs
of the worlds to come, though they were already here—the extinctions
and feudal lords, the dirty blankets, the dissidents tied to stakes or hung
from branches, the price gouge, death camp, flood, bombs of liberty, bomb

and bomb and bomb already dropped, already having made me
from its dust, already broken and paid for and straddling my crown.
What crown? If I’m king of anything, it’s being late. Omw, I type,
though I’m still huddled in last year’s mistakes. Asteroid, Alexa corrects,
and I say, Five minutes. Just give me five minutes. I’ll be right there.