this the the way to rule
Joshua Young


dear survivors,

the wreckage here is so incredible, so massive that when the city toppled it became a landslide and carried limbs of each avenue into the ocean. from the beach it looks as though a city grew from the sea, half-drunk and ambitious to spread, cobbling structures as fast as possible, anchored to the hillside as second-hand ruins. there are no survivors and the soldiers are uncovering what they can, looking for survivors. we see bodies floating next to what slid into the ocean. the soldiers do not see us. they do not find survivors. they start fires.


dear survivors,

as we round the veer, we catch the back-end of a garrison. they’ve gathered and camped. we panic and double back into the woods. for hours we wait for them to come for us. at twilight we hear laughter and fire-talk. we approach when we hear it all quiet to watch them. maybe out of curiosity, maybe out of stupidity, maybe out of the need to see other human beings—we haven’t seen another breathing human for weeks now—but they aren’t laughing the fire is still whimpering, but barely. their faces are stuck in stares. they’re dead. we hear movement in the tree line and scatter forward towards the next town.


dear survivors,

we’re on a hill on the crest between two cities—it’s like they’re breeding. they look the same, but they’re not. these soldiers have been called to where they’re needed. there are garrisons and gatherings everywhere. different men and women.


dear survivors,

people used to sit on this bench and watch the sunset. everything is just filed down. this bench looks polished. it shines in the gray-light. the oceans clicks rocks together. sounds like the echo of a piano resting. i sit and try to imagine what the sunset used to look like from here. a fire swells behind us. the soldiers are near. we find cover in the far bushes on the other side of the stream. when they’re gone we uncovered and put it out.


dear survivors,

someone says, everything’s still standing. we came in the backside of town, where the buildings and streets love to collect rust and dirty and broken. and we start peering down alleys. there are no stop lights ripped sideways, no pipes bursting, no creviced roads. the rust and wear is natural. then the wreckage comes. we should’ve known, but this side of town has been known to play tricks on travelers. an avalanche of steel and glass and concrete begins to cascade ahead of us, where the city grows. then the gas hisses and the streets crevice, and the main breaks. a violating roar makes ruins. we turn to escape, but there are a line of soldiers a few blocks away, toeing the edge of town. they watch us. then they set a fire. it blazes towards us. we crawl into a bus that has tipped on its side. the street keeps splitting, and it pulls things into its mouth. the bus starts sliding, but its guts catch us, holding us above the surface. though, we stare down into the mouth of gas and trinkets of the wreckage getting swallowed. the fire comes faster now, catching the gas and swinging where it can. we’re jammed in the bus, the doors caught. we start kicking at the glass till it breaks or pulps. when the fire’s upon us, we start crawling through the hole where glass used to be. we retreat forward, into the still simmering wreckage. the fire chasing. there’s no way to put it out. all we can do is run.



Joshua Young is the author of When the Wolves Quit: A Play-in-Verse (Gold Wake Press) and To the Chapel of Light (Mud Luscious Press/Nephew). He studies Poetry in the MFA program at Columbia College Chicago, where he also teaches First Year Writing. He lives in Chicago with his wife, their son, and their dog.