Digging a new lake for the emperor of the Han,
The excavators encountered a black layer
Of sludge that Buddhist monks interpreted
As the ashes left from the burning of the world
At the end of the last kalpa, a Hindu concept.
Imagine looking into an open pit, believing
That the tar or peat or whatever it was at bottom
Was all that was left of four million years plus,
A cosmic era of gods and humans reduced
To ash and slush, unrecoverable. Something
Like that feeling rushes through me whenever
I encounter a casual reference to a completed
Human life ended abruptly at an age less than mine.
There was a world, an unfathomable kalpa
As detailed as this I’m living in, as my own,
Now lost, long lost, a layer of ash and mud.