End of the World


On my way home I pass a man.

He stands on the roadside with a sign.


“The wisest 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 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 wisest 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. We die all the time but we don’t notice it because we all die at the same time,” he says.


“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 he’s not the wisest 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

It is time to come clean.

I woke up at an early age.

I lived a normal life.

So that you believe me

when I reveal all.

I will do that now.


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.

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.


Waking up is like this.

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.

The world ends.

We know it then.

We were already dead.



– text by Tullio DeSantis


This poem also exists as a collaborative piece I did with the performer/musician Heidi Harris.

There is an audio version of it on ARTologyPOD. It is Episode 11.



1 Comment

Filed under Poetry

One response to “End of the World

  1. Vicki L.

    I find this poem interesting because people do things based on what the world wants and not on what they individually want. Materialistic things only have meaning only when people make themselves believe that they have meaning. People are always looking for the next new thing when they get bored of the old; this goes along with the poem’s idea that people do not want to meet the end. Even if there is nothing new, people always find ways “to give life” to old or common ideas.
    When a new idea or trend comes along, different people would try to create their own take of the idea to make them popular or on the same page as everyone else in the society. In a way people do not physically want to be like themselves because society seems to have a “standard” for how everyone should be. The poem says that the brain is only a servant to what the body wants. People can only think about their own original ideas, but in the end the idea is revised to appeal to other people. This is like saying an idea is considered a good idea when the majority agrees.
    I find that in today’s society, electronics make informing a large group of people more prominent. This leads people to constantly be on electronics because they feel that they would “miss out” if they did not have it. Even though it does not help people, society makes it socially acceptable to always be on electronics. This goes along with the poem’s idea that people are not themselves when they are born.

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