Dugas leads us into a dreamscape where the world of plague and bad news is supplanted by color, art and café comforts. Yes, please! This poem is medicine for the isolated desperation settling in, and the declaration, “I want nothing but to finish loving you…get my reds all over you” had me rattling my socially-distant cage.
This poem was—in part—inspired by Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night. In spite of the reference to “whatever plague,” I wrote this before the pandemic. It’s a poem about escaping this quickly fading planet to exist in a single romantic moment. And how glorious would it be to evade apocalypse and spend your final moments in the parameters of this quaint painting with someone you adore?
Invite at the End of the World
by Hollie Dugas
Let us cut through our bodies. Let us become only color,
slip like winged creatures into the dark blue of Arles
on the rue du Palais before it’s too late and order
two small black coffees at van Gogh’s Café Terrace
at Night— a different kind of night,
where the stars are still set in the sky and the local news
isn’t alive. After all, we saw this coming—
the animals we are—moths flying into flames, sharks
swimming to mother’s second uterus to devour siblings,
the universe swallowing itself. We felt the planet shudder
in our ears as we raised each moist hunk of earth
up to our mouths. On the patio, dressed in a long white
robe, the waiter hands us a balloon he’s shaped
into a yellow rainboot, a single pink flower growing from
the inside. How long can I keep you here
within the soft swirls of this backwater sky—the world
shutting its jaws? I want nothing but to finish loving you
in the yellow light of this city, get my reds all over you,
take a last drink from our cups, and prepare to eat
the lead from whatever plague contains us.