Filming the Doomsday Clock

by Mary Jo Bang

We were told that the cloud cover was a blanket
about to settle into the shape of the present
which, if we wanted to imagine it
as a person, would undoubtedly look startled—
as after a verbal berating
or in advance of a light pistol-whipping.
The camera came and went, came and went,
like a masked man trying to light a too-damp fuse.
The crew was acting like a litter of mimics
trying to make a killing.
Anything to fill the vacuum of time.
The wind whirred and tracked the clouds.
The credits, we were told, would take the form
of a semi-scrawl, urban-sprawl, graffiti-style
typography. The soundtrack would include
instrumental versions of "Try a Little Tenderness."
Our handler, who was walking backward
in order to maintain constant eye contact with us,
nearly stumbled over a girl in a sheath and pearls
who was misting a shelf of hothouse flowers.
While the two apologized to each other,
we stood and watched the fine spray settle
over the leaves and drip onto the floor.
On the way out, we passed a door
with a small window reinforced with wired glass
through which we could see a nurse
positioning a patient on a table. We swore
afterward we'd heard her say, "Lie perfectly still
and look only inward." A clock chimed and
as the others were audibly counting backwards
from five to zero, I thought I heard someone say,
"Now let go of this morbid attachment to things."

The Last Two Seconds

Last updated December 24, 2022