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Michael Simms: The end of civilization as we know it


I want to apologize for walking in

When the dog was licking 

Your bald head as you lay

On the couch drinking rum

Straight from the bottle because

Your girlfriend called you something

You won’t say out loud because

It’s too disgusting you said without

A hint of self-pity just a whimsical

Smile that made me think of Einstein

Flunking math when he was younger

Than you with your strange sense

Of dignity considering the dog

Licking your bald head with big

Sloppy licks reminded me

Of a mop on a kitchen floor which

Also needs attention.



He says he’s sorry for looking 

In your window when the two of 

You were tongue kissing and 

Being shocked because you claimed 

You were mother and daughter when

Really you were lovers and then

Suing you for painting your house

Top to bottom with the rainbow

Flag which was your coming out

To the neighborhood which started

A melee where a dog was shot and

No one wanted poor Rex to die

But this is what happens when

You live in a place where pickups

Come with gun racks and coyotes

Run down the street chasing cats.



When the coyotes surrounded you

They wanted to eat your dog not 

You who called your boyfriend to drive 

His pickup right into the middle of 

The pack and scatter the coyotes

And you knew the coyotes were 

In the abandoned country club because

Wolves and cougars were hunted out

A hundred years ago and the coyotes

Keep out the cats so the songbirds

Are everywhere spreading the seeds

Of wildflowers which carpet the old

Fairways and the ruined clubhouse

Where the owls live and maybe

We’re okay with the end of civilization

As we know it.


Snow Camel

On highway 80 near Sellersville 

A camel was spotted in

The snow no one

Knows where it came from

But the locals have named her

Snow Camel and the radio

Said if you’re missing

A camel please call the 

Station to put in a claim

And somehow I don’t think

This is odd because I know

What it is to be in the wrong

Life in the south I’m a northerner

In the north I’m a southerner

In the summer I long for snow

In the winter I long for sun

Somehow always looking

For a way out while also

Feeling right at home

Just about anywhere.



You were being funny about your

Time in Vietnam telling about the time

You were riding in a truck and two 

Women lifted their shirts and the driver

Slammed the brakes and the soldiers

Got out and took the women into

The field and fucked them and paid

Two dollars a fuck and then got back

In the truck and then you started

Crying and laughing at the same

Time crying and laughing and laughing

And crying and you couldn’t stop and

Someone got you a glass of water

Which you spilled on your shirt and

Started hiccupping and we thought

Smoking a joint would help but

It didn’t and later you said don’t say

Thank you for your service instead say

We’re so sorry we did this to you.



When you showed up in court

In a three piece suit you’d worn

Only to weddings and stood in front

Of the judge he thought you were

A lawyer not the defendant and the

Other defendants showed up wearing

Orange suits and leg chains and 

The judge asked where is your client 

And you said I’m the defendant 

Your Honor and he invented your 

Defense and let you go to rehab

Instead of jail and when you got out

You bought a big bag of smack and

Stole money from your mother’s 

Purse and beat up your dealer

And made him pay your lawyer

And you were running a scam

On yourself only yourself yourself.



Let’s do something with the bananas

You said because they sit and sit

And turn black and no one wants 

A black banana and it seems like 

This is the way it is around here no

One wants to do what needs to be

Done only let things fail the lightbulbs

Burn out the roaches run around as

They please there’s a rat that

Lives in the walls and we 

Hear it at night dragging its tail

And the landlord wants the rent

And the light company wants and

The gas company and the water

Feels like its coming up to my chin

I’m drowning in my own thoughts.



You didn’t choose drugs 

Drugs chose you no matter 

Where you hid them 

They called your name 

Whippersnatch Lossingput

Whirlymitch you were always 

At a loss to know who you were 

Or why things fell apart when 

You touched them but never

You mind there’s always 

More confusion to fill 

The hole inside you and

Now you’ve been clean and

Sober a few months and you

Want us to believe Attilla the Hun

Has become Mr. Rogers well

I don’t think so. 



Now that we’re middle class 

I can’t help but remember

The old collapses and how 

My life was like an unplugged 

Appliance taking up a lot of 

Room with its expensive 

Reminders of how things 

Could be if only we knew how to

Turn it on but somehow it never

Happened instead we just thought

We were cool not to care but

We were just too incompetent

To be in charge of ourselves.



Getting old is like coming to the end

Of a novel you didn’t like that much

But it’s the only book you own

And you have nothing else to do

And the main character started out

As kind of an asshole and now he’s 

Less so most days but today he’s an

Asshole again and you really don’t like

Him but his wife is pretty cool except

For those few years in her early 50’s

When she was in meanopause and 

In this last chapter the snow is 

Falling slowly covering the trees

And houses and everything is 

Beautiful as you feel yourself 

Floating over the city and you wish

The story didn’t have to end.

Copyright 2020 Michael Simms. From American Ash (Ragged Sky, 2020)

Author’s note: This sequence of ten poems was created out of a challenge I gave myself to write a series of quick improvisations. Here were the rules: each poem tells a story in one sentence; each story recounts an odd or embarrassing incident that someone told me about recently or which I myself witnessed; and each story explores the theme ‘The End of Civilization as We Know It.’ A total of nine poems were written in less than an hour on November 29, 2019. Another poem, Snow Camel, was written in a few minutes three days later and inserted into the sequence. I’ve decided to publish these poems in their first spontaneous form and not to revise them.

Acknowledgement: The last two lines of “Road” are borrowed from John Samuel Tieman’s wonderful essay “Thank You For Your Service” about being a Vietnam war veteran — first published in Vox Populi. Tieman writes “Instead of ‘Thank you for your service,’ perhaps folks should say, ‘I’m so sorry we did this to you.'”

Michael Simms
Radio broadcast heard while driving: “A camel was spotted on Route 309 near Philadelphia. The residents have named it Snow Camel. If you are missing a camel, please call the Philly Voice to put in a claim.”

25 comments on “Michael Simms: The end of civilization as we know it

  1. shiranirajapakse
    January 9, 2022

    These are little gems.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. purplepeninportland
    February 13, 2020

    I applaud you first for coming up with this challenge, and second for these wonderful little one-sentence beauties!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. msjadeli
    February 13, 2020

    About as real as it gets.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Linda Lee Lyberg
    February 13, 2020

    I love the poems, and the concept as well! Bravo!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. nitinsingh
    February 8, 2020


    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pamela Duran
    January 19, 2020

    These poems made my day! I read them three times, and will read again tomorrow. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sarah Gordon
    January 18, 2020

    I really like all of these a lot. Great assignment to yourself, too!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Emily
    January 18, 2020


    Liked by 1 person

  9. Arlene Weiner
    January 18, 2020

    Wow! Amazing work under the conditions you set. I’m jealous.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Grace Bennett
    January 18, 2020

    Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Rob Deaner
    January 18, 2020

    Tremendous, love the style.

    Regards, Rob Deaner


    Liked by 1 person

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