The End of the World


On my way home I pass a man.
He stands on the roadside with a sign.

“The smartest man in the world.”

White hair, standing there,
he looks harmless enough.
I’m curious. I stop,
roll down the window,
and feel the cold.

“Where you headed?” I say.

“I’m headed to the world’s end.
Looks like I found it.”

“I don’t think so. This is the middle of Pennsylvania.
It’s not the end of anything, much less the world.”

“Well, if you let me go along with you for a while, I’ll show you.
I’ll get out then.”

“I have about 30 miles to where I’m going.
I’m not going out of my way.”

“No problem,” he says.

He gets in, shoves the sign in the back seat.
We drive on.

“Your sign says you’re the smartest man in the world. Is that so?”

“Sure am.”

“Ok. What’s it all about, then?”

“It’s the middle of winter. That means we are all dead. And we won’t wake up until spring,” he says. “We die all the time but we don’t notice it because we all die at the same time.”

“Do we all wake up at the same time then, too?”

“In a way we do. But that’s just a figure of speech.”

I’m thinking my passenger is clever but not quite the smartest man in the world.

“That’s it.” he says. “Don’t think another thought. I’m getting out right here.”

I bring my car to a stop. There’s nothing on either side but an old cornfield. He gets out and walks up a slight rise through snow and corn stubs. As he reaches the crest and descends, he seems to disappear.

Just before that he drops a small piece of paper.

I have some time.
I pull over, park, and follow his frozen footsteps.
At the top of the hill I find a folded note.
He is gone.

Back home now.
I bury his sign
and read the note:


I am old and I will die one day
It is time to come clean.

I woke up at an early age.
I lived a normal life.
I have things to say.

It is not comforting to know
Hearing this will not set you free.
Freedom is not for us in this life.
We cannot be other than we are.

We pass our time with useless things
As if we live forever.
It is our bodies doing this.

Our minds know very well we die.
But our bodies refuse to hear of it.
Our bodies desire the useless things.

We go about our days in service to these dumb limbs
Serving them endless amounts of what they desire
But does not sustain them
Making them as comfortable as possible, as they demand it
Because they refuse to accept they will die.

Our brilliant minds are filled with petty annoyance.
That’s our lazy bodies talking
Constantly forcing us to confront ourselves in mirrors
So we can see the damage we’re doing.

And while we know love is the answer,
We are faced with the hard fact
We can only be loved to the degree we love ourselves.

And we do not love ourselves.
We are our bodies.
And because they are such stupid brutes
They are utterly unlovable.

I am good looking enough to know looks are worth nothing
And wealthy enough to have figured out it has no value.
I am intelligent and know I can never be smart enough.
I see far enough to see an end.

Enlightenment is like these things.
Once it is yours you see right through it.
And you know
Like everything else
It is nothing at all.

The secret of life is life.
We all possess it for a while.

I am old and I will die.
It’s time to say the things I’ve said.
I am old and I will die.
You’ll know it then.
I was already dead.

Words and image, Tullio Francesco DeSantis, 2009


Filed under Poetry

5 responses to “The End of the World

  1. Alexandra

    I really enjoy the art piece that you have with the writing. I think that the burning fire represents the “End of the World” in a clever way. However, did this really happen? I don’t think that I will have the courage to let a stranger ride along with me in the car.

  2. Deanna Madison

    I think both the image and the poem are very interesting and unique. I have never thought of the end of the world being an individualistic thing, I believe that is what you were getting at. I at first thought that the poem would end in chaos, because of the image that goes along with it. I saw fire that resulted in ruins, but there still was an area of brightness, or maybe even a road of enlightenment? I am not sure if that is exactly what the image is, but that is how it appeared to me.

  3. Tracey Davis

    The picture seems like 3-D effects in the with the corn dying in the field which would represent the end of life. And the darkness of the sky that brings out the end of time with the fire burning bright in the back sky.

  4. Victoria Bernhart

    This is an excellent piece and I love both the art and the written piece that goes with it. The artwork held up to its name, the corn is dead from the brutal winter and there appears to be flames of destruction raging in the background. The sky opens up which reminds me of those classic alien invasion stories. The overall feel of chaos is overwhelming. Every part of the piece plays some kind of role to bring you that feeling. The pieces are organized but not so much that the work appears bland. I loved reading the writing half for this piece. I’ve had my share of ghosts in the past, but none as enlightened and wise about life and about us as individuals. All the points made are very true about life and we tend to not realize such things about it till it’s almost too late.

Your comments are welcome.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s