Rebecca Lehmann

The End
July 23, 2022 Lehmann Rebecca

The End


Whatever is coming is the end, but not really.
We think it’s the end because we are human,
in love with our own stories. The end is love,
though we won’t know it that way
when it comes for us, in our raspy sick beds,
in the beds where we made our children,
then snuggled them in the mornings,
their kid feet kicking the blankets
into a heap. My son asks if he’ll still be
my favorite person when I die. My son asks
if the cat is dead yet, though she is right before him,
curled in a sick ball, her breathing labored.
When I labored for my son it lasted three days.
I thought I would die. My son asks how I know
the grass is wet. He asks how rainbows form.
Rainbow is his favorite color. My son holds
a rainbow sticker in his palm. My son holds a clay
heart in his palm. He has painted it neon pink.
My son wakes me in the morning, crawls into
my bed, tells me I smell like strawberries.
Strawberries aren’t really berries, he tells me,
and he’s right. He has discovered another fraud,
though not the wild fraud of the end.
The end has sharp teeth. No. The end has wild fur.
No. The end bares its claws and slinks
around a fire. No. Boo! The end is under
the bed, hiding, like a child who’s been
scolded for knocking his baby sister down.
The end traces a finger in the dust,
traces a heart, traces a rainbow, traces a tree.
The end. The end. The end. The end waits and waits.

Rebecca Lehmann is the author of the poetry collections Ringer, winner of the 2018 Donald Hall Prize for Poetry and published by University of Pittsburgh Press in 2019, and Between the Crackups (Salt, 2011). Her poetry and nonfiction has been published in Tin House, Boston Review, Ploughshares, Copper Nickel, and featured on The Slowdown with Tracy K. Smith on NPR, The Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day Project, the New York Public Library Poem in Your Pocket program, Longreads and other venues. She lives in Indiana, where she is Assistant Professor of English at Saint Mary’s College.