John Donne and Leonard Cohen
at the End of the World

by Carolyn Oliver

In the unholy light
stripping the horizon bare
the poets eat oranges and olives,
the kind Donne grew a taste for in Cádiz.

I didn’t think the end
would come so bright, says Leonard
in that voice like smoke settled in rafters
or a rockslide paused. At his touch, oranges melt.

Out of golden lines
at last, Donne nods, cleaning
his oily fingers on a bit of shroud.
He pours them both another ruby glass.

From where they sit—
could be a pulpit, or a tower—
they watch the slow sky of beaten gold
collapse, like a high note held until it thins.

World drunk and bottle dry,
they are two rakish hats receding
into the dark. Leonard lets slip a bit of peel.
Like a lover or a saint, it falls forever on its knees.

Carolyn Oliver’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Shallow Ends, The Greensboro Review, Gulf Stream, Tar River Poetry, Frontier Poetry, and elsewhere. A graduate of The Ohio State University and Boston University, she lives in Massachusetts with her family. Links to more of her writing can be found at