Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Taije Silverman's "Armageddon" Featured as the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day

"Armageddon," by Senior Lecturer Taije Silverman, was featured as the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day on March 22! Read and hear her poem now: 


Taije Silverman

Every time I see you I ask if Bruce Willis is dead
and every time you answer me first yes, then no. 
An asteroid was going to hit earth last week 

in the only dream my eight-year-old has ever shared—
a last-ditch stab, perhaps, at not falling asleep
the next night, while he lay with my hand on his hip

which, since kindergarten, has been the only form
of touch he will permit. Was everyone scared,
I asked, and the question was not rhetorical.

He had been standing with the other
fourth graders on the astro-turfed playground
of their school rooftop, and because an asteroid

was coming, his friend Ethan jumped over the edge
but broke only his arm. That’s it, that’s all he broke,
his arm, which seems, in my son’s telling,

the dream’s central event—and not that his father
who is my husband gave my son who is his son
a magic potion to seal their eyes shut

as they drove to Sky Zone Trampoline Park
while the asteroid kept falling to earth. So much,
he said, when I asked if they had fun. I don’t know

when I started failing. If there’s a when, if it’s I,
as the sly syntax of catastrophe seems to collapse
all identifying pronouns into a mirror-flecked heap

in which you move from the narrating self
to dear friend down the street through an infinity
of strangers between—such as the teen clerk at Rite Aid

who yells DEAD? when I share the news
of Bruce Willis’s sudden or expected demise
that a magazine cover by the register does imply.

So I’m not in the dream, I asked my son, pretending
to laugh, and my son nodded, and the children
fishing for gold stars on a quilt my mother

embroidered when I was younger than my son
nodded on a lake of jean pockets.
Oh Bruce Willis himself is not dead,

you say, in my backyard: he just has aphasia,
which is when I remember we had this same
conversation last week in your backyard

before the asteroid did or didn’t hit earth
in a dream where my husband and son
had so much fun at Sky Zone with their eyes closed. 

Wait, my son said, his hip light in my palm. 
Actually. You were on the asteroid. 
I was on the asteroid? You were on the asteroid.

I bet the magic potion has glitter in it. 
I bet the magic potion disappears the instant you
pour it in your palm. I bet it tastes like orange juice

in the form of air and blammo, before you touch it
to your tongue, your eyes never open again, a miracle.
Can you believe it, just his arm. Although the school’s

only two stories high above a parking lot
where afternoon pick-up has been scheduled
in fifteen-minute slots but please keep your mask on 

and we’ll bring your child to your car from the locked
back door. You meaning I, and we meaning safety
is the trampolined floor of a windowless room

in a strip mall. Maybe you’re Bruce Willis
in Armageddon, you say, and you’re on the asteroid
to dismantle it, but I don’t know Armageddon 

is a film, so when I ask if Bruce Willis died, and you
say yes, but he died saving earth, I say what???
while thinking it’s impossible to know what, exactly,

is alarming. Yes. Everyone’s scared. An asteroid has no
atmosphere. It is made of rock and metal.
It is very valuable. It is one hundred percent certain

that we will be hit by a devastating asteroid but it is not
one hundred percent certain when. Aphasia like heat
splitting pavement in winter, Aphasia the forced

open blooms in our yards in this language of mirrors
at the end of the world in this life I love with you
on an astro-turfed rooftop, so high up and survivable.

Copyright © 2024 by Taije Silverman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 22, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.