The Most Exclusive Cruise in the Apocalypse

Two poems by Perry Janes

The Most Exclusive Cruise in the Apocalypse

Here’s the pitch.

Pretend you had to sell it, this life
you’ve been given. Watch how 

quickly the term thyroid goiter becomes 
scenic esophageal overlook. Hypertension

becomes a live demonstration of the heart’s 
amazing high-volume pumping capacities! 

You must take up embroidering
the truth with the same fervor

eligible debutantes used to tackle
parlor needlework for bachelors:

if nothing else, at least you’ll possess 
one marketable skill. Take me

for example. I could offer you
early morning anxiety attacks

or, if you prefer, passions 
that unfailingly rouse you from sleep

into the horizon of opportunities cresting
each new dawn. Necessity makes

salesmen of us all. So your bathwater 
phosphoresces? So your sky wraps 

its smog fingers around the throats 
of sparrows, pigeons, starlings 

to drop them on the sidewalk?
Miracles by any other measure!

What changes when the year of unemployment 
becomes the era of unlicensed afternoons

from which the very milk of freedom is harvested 
for nourishment? Would you be more 

interested in plantar warts or flesh-made 
pearls? A friend’s betrayal or the dramatic 

unmasking of a villain that restores 
the currency of loyalty among companions? 

You’ve got to practice. You’ve got to
sell it, again and again and again 

and again. This is how you buy it back 
every time. You buy it back.

Here I go, pitching again.

A man walks into a boatyard 
and buys enough rusted chaff

to build himself an ark, constructed
board by board from blueprints

but with updates, you understand, narrow 
enough to squeeze through culverts connecting 

the Los Angeles River, with enough dystopian flare 
to feel acceptably ironic in polite company, a little 

Mad Max, a little Matrix, all the party guests wondering 
whether he had the whole thing done by 3D printer until—

bam. Rapture. Bam. Floodwater. Bam. Everyone 
with their champagne flutes begging 

for entry. And here come headaches of a new 
and different kind. Let’s say the man is me,

the ark is mine, my partner and I, suddenly,
bouncers to the most exclusive cruise

in the apocalypse. Just don’t ask her to guard 
the door. Did you know she once wept 

on a city street corner for the palm tree planted 
alone in its plot? The one leaning, almost as though 

it were lonely or excluded, toward the adjacent yard
overflowing with trees, the whole group of them 

rubbing their leaves, just flaunting it—
that togetherness. This is why a retinal scan

will be required to board. Better to mechanize
entry to the ever-after. If that sounds cold 

you’ve never run interference between 
the person you love and the person they become

when overfilling the coffee filter with grounds,
clogging the garbage disposal with unfinished rice, 

stuffing the trunk with clothes for donation, 
their shirtsleeves dangling 

dangerously close to the tire well. 
Leave it to her, the ship would be straining 

with freight. Some café barista caught
in the rain. A dozen stray cats. Every dog

in the pound. The guy next door 
tuning his electric blue Gibson 

at two in the morning. The Gibson. Rats 
up from the sewer. A park full of pigeons. 

Succulents saved from their waterlogged 
window box. Perhaps I’ve been too stingy 

with my list, too recalcitrant with my heart, 
its porch light left dark after hours. Perhaps 

she understands what I pretend not to know: 
we’re sailing into an ending. When the time 

finally arrives, we’ll trust the rickety seams 
of our craft. I’ll open the doors. She’ll place 

her hand on the wheel to steer.

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