The lady on the news—her plastic hair
and plastered mirth—was coming unglued.
A liquor bottle lowered from her lips,
her breath steaming in the December wind.

We watched and waited: a frantic line
of beggars, hands and eyes opened upward.
The line unwrapped like a ribbon around
the corner and down the road. Overhead,
the advancing comet’s light pulsed and flared,
shining on the final Christmas of mankind.

She spoke into the snow to no one, her last
broadcast: “Those science dudes claim
their time machines, shaped like phone booths,
have enough juice to fetch us from death.”

She burped and blinked at the empty bottle,
slurping the final drop. “Decide ahead of time
the time you think is right for you.” She wagged
the bottle at the frothing, freezing, shoving line,
and flung the glass across the icy ground.
With a “wee” sound, she skidded her microphone
after it, then skipped into line behind me.

We shared a silence in that midnight glow.
The snowflakes surfed, undisturbed
by that approaching eye from space,
and slipped past the pine trees onto the earth.

A burst of fire from the eye, our final Christmas
star, hurried our scurrying line of beggars.

“I play the bass,” I heard the newscaster slur.
Tickled by her drunken lack of jitters,
I nodded while she massaged the snow
into her hair. “I hate corporations, needed a job.”
The snow, gleaming with imminent doom,
chewed through her plastic hair. “I hate the news.”
She threw her hair back and wiped the lipstick
and mascara clean. “I only wanted to rock and roll.”

The older man in front of me in line dematerialized.

“Hurry. It’ll hit in minutes.” The newscaster,
dread in her stare, pushed me into the booth.
I punched the buttons, my tongue sweating.

But only pops and buzzes, sparks and fizzles.

“No!” She yanked me out of her way.
“The ‘60s! I want to smoke and rock
and play my bass at Woodstock.”

She tossed me aside like a gnat. I tumbled,
scraping the snow on the road with my face,
frightened to the core, robbed of my final escape.

The ground grumbled. The air roared.

Then, with a sound like a weak car battery
trying to turn for all its worth, the time
machine rattled and beeped like Morse.

The newscaster vanished, waving goodbye.

I wiped the icy blood from my face,
the last in line for the human race
to travel back in time, escaping the fate
of a comet come to obliterate.

I fought to swallow. And then, amidst
the inferno, the shock waves leveling buildings,
calm replaced panic. I sang to the igniting
Christmas trees: “O Tannenbaum…”