On the Saturday after the Rapture

By Jesse Millner

Tonight my mother will watch the latest hurricane
news and tell my father that surely these are
the “End Times” and the sight of bedraggled
brothers and sisters swimming down streets in New Orleans
or Gulfport or some other god-forsaken-place
where the storm has landed, will further confirm
Revelation, and she’ll fall asleep dreaming
of Apocalypse.  The moon was red the other night

and I imagined horses swimming its pockmarked surface
as I walked the dog down our quiet, South Florida street
and felt the first cool breeze of September rush
through the black olive trees to greet me.
The dog and I don’t want the world to end.
We’d prefer not to be burned alive in a nuclear holocaust
or drowned in the storm surge from a tropical cyclone;
in fact, the both of us would prefer to live forever,
and every night after our walks, for eternity, we’d like to head home
for his dog biscuit and my ice cream, respectively,
though it’s true he does like ice cream and I like his Newman’s
peanut butter treats, the crunchy almost sweetness
of the little heart-shaped delights.

I don’t eat his treats often, but I’d like
to dream his running dreams, the ones
that follow our walks when he collapses
on the rug, and then his snout
quivers and his body quickens, legs swimming,
tail whacking the living room floor.

This is the way the dog dreams
and sometimes he whimpers
as though he’s seen a squirrel
in that black velvet world

of strange moons where horses swim
in lunar light and angels whine
after them, wishing god had given
them legs instead of wings
and moons to wander instead of dead constellations.

But those are imagination horses
and the grim angels are real,
their fingers dripping with New Testament blood,
their glowing skulls radiant
like the grinning dead,
the ones god will plow the fields of earth with
on the Saturday after the Rapture.

On the Saturday after the Rapture,
the dog and I would prefer to watch cartoons
instead of being thrown into a lake of fire.
The dog and I would like to eat peanut butter
right out of the jar and watch Bugs Bunny
instead of being tortured forever by Satan,
that grimmest of all angels, the fallen one,
the serpent, the tempter, the all-time worst bad guy
whom the Baptist preachers condemned in showers
of spit, as they thundered about the spitted skewers
that awaited every graceless sinner.

Grace is the horse that runs beneath the moon
on a blue-tinted field outside Lexington, Kentucky
where I lived once in those lonely days before
I met my dog.  But I still loved horses,
which the Lakota Sioux called “big dogs”
because they had no name for the escaped
Spanish ponies, the ones that fled Cortez
and Coronado in those long ago days
when the Conquistadors brought Jesus
and salvation on the tip of a bloody sword.

So many died for our God.
No one has died for dog.
No has died from preaching horses
running across a red moon, harbinger
of fall when hurricane season will finally end
and those of us still alive will sleep
with our canines on Florida nights
when we forget the stars above us are long dead,
when we forget the story of our own mortality,
that secret which leaks out with every breath,
as we dream hopefully of whole herds of horses
running across fields of full moons, their hooves
kicking up luna dust, the whole universe
awakened by such thunder that
even those angels are afraid.

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 9. Nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Jesse Millner teaches composition and creative writing at Florida Gulf Coast University. His first full-length poetry collection, The Neighborhoods of My Past Sorrow, was published in 2008 (Kitsune Books).

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