i. The Artist
Agrees blood doesn’t make for the best paint,
but humans will use worse through history,
whelk dye and highly toxic cinnabar,
the mollusks mourning their mass murder,
the painters’ lungs shriveled with poison for eternity.
The artist immortalizes sunsets and war-zones.
They name each stone canvas imperial purple,
vermilion, carmine, crimson,
but the truth is, they’re just red.
Everyone is red.
ii. The Poet
Roams battlefields in search of personal effects
harvested from those dead or dying,
for tragedy births the best poems.
Dog tags, torn or scorched photographs,
hand-carved bone figurines of a serene woman
who might have been peace, personified.
The poet takes his razor-edged pen
and scratches palimpsests of history
across his heaving chest.
iii. The Scientist
Tries to detect water in the dacryphiliac desert.
She dowses through endless expanses of cracked earth,
holding on to the forked wishbone
of some long-extinct animal, carving spirals in the sand.
Her feet blister and her skin melts off in rivulets
before her fossilized rod palpitates.
An absinthe-green lake, a promised oasis.
The desert floor opens wide to swallow her,
the trilobites and arthropods welcoming her home.
iv. The Teacher
Fails to convince his students of his prophetic visions.
Long before the first local conspiracy theory
or worldwide panicked broadcast,
he drew chalk figures across the blackboard,
interpretations of death and destruction
like geoglyphs or paleolithic cave art.
The teacher begged his students and their families
to gather provisions and build underground bunkers,
to save themselves any way they could.
But even then, he was too late.
Their creator had already sealed their fate,
painted in red pigment across the walls.