Climate Change adjusts the beach chair
and sets her dry martini on the glass tabletop.
She lets the pashmina slide from her shoulders,
revealing her hot pink bikini. By high noon,
her skin has gone from enriched flour
to terracotta and she is slurring her words
so badly it sounds like a soon-to-be-dead
language, which is appropriate, as all languages
will be dead by the time she’s through with them.
Climate Change lounges in the early afternoon
swelter. She drapes herself across the diving board,
now drinking gin straight from the bottle.
She drags her toes through the water.
Her toenails are painted the color of a coral reef—
gray. She arches her foot and splashes the pool boy,
who is fishing dead frogs out of the water
with a reusable canvas shopping bag.
She is a terrible flirt. Meaning she is actually
terrible at it. He can barely hide his disgust
as she lets her shoulder strap slide down her arm,
revealing a white triangle of flesh, pocked
and spotted like old snow. He pretends
to have received an urgent text message,
and then pretends to call someone,
“Yes, I got your text. I’ll be right over.”
He leaves the bag of frogs on the cement
and she trips over it when she stumbles
to the pool house to pee. She curses
and resolves to fire him. He avoids this
by quitting. Hungover and annoyed,
Climate Change turns down the brightness
of her laptop screen and composes
a help wanted ad, the third one this month.
It’s so hard to find good help these days.
No one wants to work for a living.
It is said God is the word, but God
is just a word. If God lives in heaven,
heaven is a mouth. A mouth is a cage
that can swallow its captive. When
we go, we will take our gods with us,
suddenly small enough to hold under
our tongues. Our tongues will go
with us and the sounds we made
with our tongues and the words
we made of our sounds. The shapes
we made of our words might outlast us,
depending on the violence of our exit.
If whatever survives us someday notices
our remains in the layered sediment,
they will call us by a different name
than the one we chose for ourselves—
a name our mouths could no more
pronounce than a trilobite could sing
an aria. Their tongues will speak their gods.
Their gods will speak their tongue.
There must be languages we don’t know
are languages. Sounds we can’t make
sense of, our senses not sharp enough
to slice them from the background noise.
Probably even now, there are voices
that are invisible to our ears, gods
whose names don’t even fit in our mouths.