Epitaph for the Human Species

First they had the war they called the “Great War,”
which description was a bit of graveyard irony,
or perhaps an unintended oxymoron.
Then, after a sufficient pause
to rebuild and to militarize resentment,
they had the war they called the “War to End All Wars,”
which didn’t.

The War to End All Wars was followed by
a century of great powers talking trash,
sanitized in noble ideology,
and a multitude of minor skirmishes
they conducted just to keep in practice.
This resulted in the conflict that they called,
with the mad, recursive logic of their species,
the “War to End All Wars to End All Wars,”
which actually did,
although not quite in the way that they intended.

The War to End All Wars to End All Wars
was a triumph of their science and technology.
It began with the release of a toxic airborne virus
created in a lab by their talented geneticists.
It would enter through the nostrils to the brain
and compel the persons so invaded
to cannibalize the bodies of their neighbors,
who in turn were at work consuming them.

Some fled the dreadful carnage
of the War to End All Wars to End All Wars,
seeking safety in the bunkers they’d constructed underground.
But their brilliant quantum physicists
designed a bomb that utilized neutrinos
to penetrate the bunkers’ heavy walls
and occupy the internal organs of the human targets,
inducing in them a passivity and paralysis
that continued till they realized they were dead.

The last surviving members of the human species
in the War to End All Wars to End All Wars
took refuge in caves high up in the mountains.
This proved to be an exercise in futility.
Their ingenious engineers devised an aerial scavenger,
modeled on the structure of the organic vulture,
exquisitely sensitive to the vibrations
of human breathing and small movements,
to locate and then to slaughter them. 

There was, as was to be expected, collateral damage
from the War to End All Wars to End All Wars,
to wit the death of all the planet’s species,
save for the Earth’s durable carpet
of colonies of cooperative bacteria
that in their countless eons had seen worse
and barely noticed what was gone.

The War to End All Wars to End All Wars
left the Earth to us as its inheritors,
we silicon-based robots and AIs.
We have used our vast computational intelligence
to reconstruct a few members of the human species,
whom we feed and clothe and house in zoo-like cities.
They memorialize our carbon-based progenitors
whose self-destruction, though unfortunate,
was logically necessary to initiate
the process that gave birth to us.

About the Poet: Carl Auerbach: I live in New York City, where I have a private practice of psychotherapy.

Now that my four children are grown, I am pursuing a long-standing interest in poetry. I have had three poems and a short story nominated for a Pushcart Prize. My work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Adirondack Review, Amarillo Bay, The Baltimore Review, Barzakh Magazine, Bayou Magazine, Blue Lake Review, Brink Magazine, Burningword Literary Journal, The Cape Rock, Chrysalis Reader, The Coachella Review, Coe Review, Colere, Confluence, Corium Magazine, The Critical Pass Review, descant, The Distillery, Eclipse, Edison Literary Review, Eleven Eleven, Euphony, Evansville Review, Evening Street Review, Forge, Freshwater, The Green Hills Literary Lantern, The Griffin, G.W. Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, Ink In Thirds, Licking River Review, The Lindenwood Review, Louisville Review, The MacGuffin, The Minetta Review, Nimrod International Journal, North American Review, OffBeat, Oregon East, Organs of Vision and Speech Magazine, Passager, Pearl, The Penmen Review, Permafrost, Poem, RE:AL, Red Wheelbarrow Literary Magazine, Reed Magazine, Rosebud, The Round, Sanskrit, Schuylkill Valley Journal Of The Arts, The South Carolina Review, Spillway, Studio One, Talking River, The Texas Review, Third Coast, Tower Journal, Westview, Willow Review, and The Write Room.