WHY HAVE CHILDREN WHEN THE WORLD IS ENDING by Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach
Killer whales have stopped reproducing.
Polar bears are eating their cubs.
Koalas abandon their young. Breathless,
nose low to the brush to keep
from choking on rising smoke,
they run towards the thousands,
pounds of food we airdropped
where earth stopped burning or
flames just hadn’t reached yet,
guilt for our part in this end
or fear it would come for us
the same. We tell ourselves
everything just wants to survive.
Believe in life as circle, not line.
In Karma, if it means our endurance.
We spread stories about wombats
herding animals into their burrows,
kangaroos hugging their rescuers,
or foxes feeding baby bears
uncharred, canidae milk. But animals
know to rely on no one. Their own
scathed hides and carcasses pile
the roadsides along bus routes
to the local preschool. The children
we chose to have must fight
gagging at the smell. My infant
daughter screams at us
for plunging the bulb syringe
deep into her nostril.
She exhales snot mixed
with my milk, screams
again, then sleeps.
She doesn’t know
we’ve made this quiet
possible. She turns her head away
where breathing comes easiest
and reaches for a warm body
as soon as she can smell it close.
She doesn’t know the coral reefs
are dead and sargassum reeks
in mounds along Caribbean coastline,
starfish suffocated under its spreading.
And maybe this is why
we’ve made her. Because
she doesn’t know survival
is in our hands, forgives us
their indiscretions, and lets us
hold her body as though
it were a world
we could still save.