This poem is somewhat newer, though I can't pinpoint exactly when I wrote it. Probably in the late 1990s. Drawing Lots in the Bottom of the Boat, while also apocalyptic, is almost gentle in comparison. I'm not sure there was any specific incident that inspired the poem, though I am always up for writing about the end of the world... More seriously, I think I did borrow just a bit from Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker Trilogy (the man that actually ran the universe and his cat (or kitten) in a shack on some back-water planet). I also have a small shout-out to my former self when I reference the blue yak -- there was a period when I was doing automatic writing at NELP (a summer program in New England that I participated in between my sophomore and junior year in college), and I kept coming up with the figure of the blue yak during these exercises.
The Way It Was When I Was There
The old man
with the beard
kept coming in and out the door.
Thunder poured out his mouth.
The firmament went from a pale blue
to an acid yellow.
I tried to sit in my chair,
but I was shaking so much
it kept toppling over.
The rain started to fall
and didn’t let up that day
or the next.
Dead fish washed up on my steps.
The old man
came back in a boat.
His breath smelled of garlic.
Flames seemed to flicker beneath his beard.
I couldn’t understand his words.
I couldn’t stay in my seat.
I leapt up onto my bed
and threw books at the two-headed snakes
coming out of the closet.
Out the window,
I could see the water had turned black;
lightening skittered across the sky.
A window shattered in the front of the house.
I thought I heard a wild dog barking --
or perhaps the blue yak bellowing.
I wish the old man would come back.
The air is turning to lead.