Raiders of the Eskaton

Philip St. Clair

In the world but waiting to opt out, these wide-eyed men
    baptized into hyperawareness during tenth grade
by total immersion into John the Revelator and Nostradamus
    and the end times foretold by the Prophets of Zion,
whose reveries featured the Illuminati and the Knights Templar,
    Roswell and Rosslyn, Atlantis and the Grassy Knoll
and Tower Number Seven, whose fathers went into the navy
    just after they were born and never came back,
whose mothers should have sent them off to the grandparents
    in pastoral Arkansas but skidded off into Valium
and Black Velvet and a succession of controlling boyfriends,
    who went to junior college on a grant and bailed out
just before midterms and hitchhiked to Gainesville or Tampa
    or Fort Myers in search of college-town tolerance,
who begged unconditional love from a fifteen-year-old runaway
    under the palm trees of midtown Daytona Beach,
who joined the army but got a general discharge during basic
    for general indifference and general inattention at drill,
who moved to the end of Zero Street in a city that repented not,
    who felt unworthy of the gift of grace and prayed nightly
for the thumb of justice, who begged change at the Dollar Tree
    and the Winn-Dixie, who gleaned aluminum from gutters
and parking lots, whose apotheosis finally came by eating a tab
    of Snoopy-Come-Home in front of a full-length mirror
and watching their skulls burst into flame, who then endured
    mandated rehabs and halfway houses, who now live in
charity wards run by Jesuits and Presbyterians, who sometimes
    rake leaves and empty trash and mop out the kitchen
but most of the time lie on narrow cots, immobilized by the fear
    that when the Rapture comes, they will be taken up
only halfway: forever suspended in the middle of the clouds
    as the checkerboard earth and the vast blank oceans
revolve beneath, as cryptic patterns left by intercontinental jets
    slowly fade away against the blue-black dome above.

Philip St. Clair is the author of four books of poetry: Acid Creek (Bottom Dog, 1997), Little-Dog-Of-Iron (Ahsahta, 1985), At the Tent of Heaven (Ahsahta, 1984), and In the Thirty-Nine Steps (Shelley’s, 1980). His two chapbooks are Divided House (Finishing Line, 2005) and number 176 in Pudding Press’s Greatest Hits series (2003). Among his awards are grants and prizes from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kentucky Arts Council, and the Bullis Prize from Poetry Northwest. His poems have been published in over two hundred journals and magazines, including the Gettysburg Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Black Warrior Review, Harper’s, Prairie Schooner, Ploughshares, Poetry Review (London), Shenandoah, and Southern Poetry Review. His work has appeared in anthologies from the University of Akron Press, Bottom Dog Press, and Southern Illinois University Press, and in 2009, he was included in the University Press of Kentucky’s What Comes Down to Us: 25 Contemporary Kentucky Poets.

“Raiders of the Eskaton” appears in our Autumn 2013 issue.