Skip to main content

Please contribute to help us to chart a path forward!

Can democracy in the United States survive naked dictatorial ambition and Christian nationalism in 2024? The biggest danger today: a vengeful would-be dictator and a cultist Christian nationalist movement that are reaching for absolute power in our country. Please help us to inform, to mobilize and to inspire the forces of multi-racial, radical, inclusive democracy to defeat this threat in 2024.

poetry Where Will You Go When Things Get Worse?

Our ship of state, writes Berkeley poet Susan Cohen, may be facing extinction, but there's no practical escape that will suffice; alternatively, we may resist.

Where Will You Go When Things Get Worse?
By Susan Cohen

Surf keeps overwhelming the remains
of a fishing boat beached and abandoned
weeks ago, rubbing it to extinction
wave by wave, plank by plank.
I joke this must be the ship of state—
humor being a vehicle for escape.
If you’re an astronaut, you can seek
another planet for atmosphere.
If you’re a wordsmith,
you can keep hammering, or else
stop and pour the single malt
to shake you nightly off your axis.
I watch sanderlings, tiny birds
who feed on tides—somehow unscathed
by pounding—and I imagine flight.
But once launched, what Arctic
would I land in that isn’t melting?
At my feet, red carcasses of crabs,
a shell being another vehicle
that will take you only so far.
If you’re a crab, you can swim
or scuttle, or hunker down
on your unsettled patch of sand,
all ten legs set to resist.

Susan Cohen’s most recent book, A Different Wakeful Animal, won the Meadowhawk Prize from Red Dragonfly Press. Her poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies, including Greensboro Review, Los Angeles Review, Nimrod, Poet Lore, Tar River Poetry, and the Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry. A former journalist, she has an MFA from Pacific University and lives in Berkeley.


If you like this article, please sign up for Snapshot, Portside's daily summary.

(One summary e-mail a day, you can change anytime, and Portside is always free.)