Cataclysm Days: Colorado Goes Its Own Way As It Often Does by Chuck Von Nordheim

Daddy doesn’t hear the voices and Mommy hasn’t spoken since the sun became a star
Johnny covers my mouth with his small hand when I talk about people in the ice
Hush up, don’t let the scary monsters know that we know they’re out there, sissy, hush up

Daddy harvests frozen wind outside in a caterpillar-clawed scoop-nosed tractor
Mommy makes soup from the animals she thaws from the blue crystals Daddy hauls home
Johnny and I stay inside too because warm flesh needs a steel shield to play outside

Daddy says sound goes in waves and without air there’s no ocean for it to go through
Icy hellos still echo up through the floor regardless of his explanations
Hush up, Johnny says, hush up, no one there outside and no one here inside but us

Daddy calls our house the bunker since it’s buried except for the tractor garage
He should remember the fever of embarrassed blood that disbelief can create
Other scientists laughed when he said a rogue planet could rip Earth from its orbit

Facts heard day after day by an eleven-year-old daughter should perk interest
Kindly voices suggesting visits have reasons no matter how the words travel
We should seek their source instead of faking deafness like scared six-year-old Johnny does

Mommy crochets her silence into a blanket she can hide her terror behind
She scrolls through picnic photos of Daddy’s students on his MacBook after he leaves
Then our bicycle generator whirs to replace its lost battery power

Could the picnic faces have changed to icebound spirits when the sun became a star?
I doubt it since they seem so dumb about humans but she might suspect a haunting
Since Mommy will not speak our knowledge of her thoughts unravel to pure mystery

Mommy and Daddy argued about his students when the rogue planet approached
I stood under the kitchen window unaware that days and blue sky would soon end
Despite their fight the memory of that last afternoon warms this endless darkness

No, I won’t shelter a single one of them, Daddy shouted. Each one betrayed me.
Let go of pride, she begged. Have mercy for your kids if you can’t pity teenagers.
Who will embrace our boy? Who will wed our girl? Or will you fulfil those functions too?

Soon I’ll hide in the scoop-nosed tractor and open its hatch when the ice people call
Not because I need boyfriends but because families need friends in this empty world
They promise to keep me warm and to fill my lungs with laughter when I come to play


After serving 22 years in the Air Force, Chuck Von Nordheim decided to shift the scene of battle from the tarmac to the classroom. Now, when given the opportunity, Chuck tries to teach college freshmen the finer points of composition. He finds it a conflict with few victories. One can locate other examples of his SF-oriented poetry in Star*Line, Lorelei Signal, and Tales of the Talisman.

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