End of the World


On my way home I pass a man.

He stands on the roadside with a sign.


“The wisest man in the world.”


White hair, standing there,

he looks harmless enough.


I’m curious. I stop,

roll down the window

and feel the cold.


“Where you headed?” I say.


“I’m headed to the world’s end.

Looks like I found it.”


“I don’t think so. This is Pennsylvania.

It’s not the end of anything, much less the world.”


“Well, if you let me go along with you for a while, I’ll show you.

I’ll get out then.”


“I have about 30 miles to where I’m going.

I’m not going out of my way.”


“No problem,” he says.


He gets in, shoves the sign in the back seat.

We drive on.


“Your sign says you’re the wisest man in the world. Is that so?”


“Sure am.”


“OK. What’s it all about, then?”


“It’s the middle of winter. That means we are all dead. And we won’t wake up until spring. We die all the time but we don’t notice it because we all die at the same time,” he says.


“Do we all wake up at the same time then, too?”


“In a way we do. But that’s just a figure of speech.”


I’m thinking my passenger is clever, but he’s not the wisest man in the world.


“That’s it.” he says. “Don’t think another thought. I’m getting out right here.”


I bring my car to a stop. There’s nothing on either side but an old cornfield. He gets out and walks up a slight rise through snow and corn stubs. As he reaches the crest and descends, he seems to disappear.


Just before that he drops a small piece of paper. I have some time. I pull over, park, and follow his frozen footsteps. At the top of the hill I find a folded note. He is gone.


Back home now. I bury his sign and read the note.


I am old and I will die

It is time to come clean.

I woke up at an early age.

I lived a normal life.

So that you believe me

when I reveal all.

I will do that now.


It is not comforting to know.

Hearing this will not set you free.


Freedom is not for us in this life.

We cannot be other than we are.

We pass our time with useless things

As if we live forever.


It is our bodies doing this.

Our minds know very well we die.

But our bodies refuse to hear of it.

Our bodies desire the useless things.


We go about our days in service to these dumb limbs

serving them endless amounts of what they desire

but does not sustain them

making them as comfortable as possible, as they demand it

because they refuse to accept they will die.


Our brilliant minds are filled with petty annoyance.

That’s our lazy bodies talking

Constantly forcing us to confront ourselves in mirrors

So we can see the damage we’re doing.


And while we know love is the answer,

We are faced with the hard fact

We can only be loved to the degree we love ourselves.

We do not love ourselves.


We are our bodies.

And because they are such stupid brutes

They are utterly unlovable.

I am good looking enough to know looks are worth nothing

and wealthy enough to have figured out it has no value.

I am intelligent and know I can never be smart enough.

I see far enough to see an end.


Waking up is like this.

Once it is yours you see right through it.

And you know

Like everything else

It is nothing at all.


The secret of life is life.

We all possess it for a while.

The world ends.

We know it then.

We were already dead.



- text by Tullio DeSantis


This poem also exists as a collaborative piece I did with the performer/musician Heidi Harris.

There is an audio version of it on ARTologyPOD. It is Episode 11.



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Fault for the Fall


You’re just being cruel
We did all we could
To pretty things up

Trying our best to clean up after you
But it’s a lost cause and we know it
Tree-loads of leaves are down

Seeds strewn around
Berries rotting on the ground
The sidewalks are all sticky
With odd fruit no one wants

It’s cold
Getting fat is making sense
Already, some of us have given in

Frost and cold fog
Chase away birds
You’re holding summer hostage
Isn’t that enough?

Not only that
When I walked out the door
You threw my hat in the dirt

And your killing spree
Goes on and on
I know for a fact
The doe on the highway
Was innocent

– text by Tullio DeSantis

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Late in October


Playing the odds of one more warm day
the last katydid is hanging tough
while a mantis prepares for hara-kiri.

Nervous chipmunks pool intelligence.
They’re drawing up secret maps
and hiding them in burrows.

I hear each year they forget
where they’ve stashed them
and so must struggle like the rest of us
blinded by frozen eyelids
stumbling, falling
toward utter hibernation.

Squirrels are in my face
staring right through me
peering for nuts I may have hidden
behind my ears.

I guess I’m no threat now
compared to what’s coming.
The ones who can’t take the pressure
throw themselves in front of cats.

– text by Tullio DeSantis

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Art of Collaboration

Under the same sun

Beneath oceanic atmosphere

Her breath leaves her lungs

A few seconds pass before it enters his


He says, “The world is…”

“…broken” – she completes it

It is her breath after all

Her mind at work here in her space


He tells her science verifies

The cave painters were mostly women

They compare the length of their fingers


We know we are ruined

It’s an argument we don’t have to have

He says the problem is men

Too much testosterone

We’re destroying ourselves


Addicted to thought

Controlled by belief

Money moves us


This wears us down

Wrecks our thinking

We lose the capacity for empathy

And we are repulsed by our bodies


What are we doing?

What is the message?

“Artists are shamans,” she says.


On the wall – how it is to be human

Living and dying speeding through time

From the cave to the street

How it is to have bodies created by sex

Deep generative parts

Powered by atavistic emotions

We are creations of desire

Needing rescue


We say these things to each other

To make them real


“Artists are shamans.”

“This is why I contacted you.”

“I know.”


- text by Tullio DeSantis

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The Tongue of the Universe


“The Tongue of the Universe” – Tullio DeSantis with Dee Shapiro – 2014
(click image for larger view)


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Some Fall Poems

Some Fall Poems


once, sound was all above me
buzz of crickets, shrill cicadas
shook the trees

absent now
instead it’s the sharp crunch
of insect bodies
mixed with acorns
beneath my boots

old leaves too
one day they’re tree-bound and wind-rustled
and the next day they show up
down here

this transference
seems fraught with some meaning
it is beyond me
like the warmth that slips farther
away each day

I know it is gravity
that does it
but it seems
much heavier than that



four million years moving through this hidden place
deep in your blood knowing it by heart
it has always been yours but now I share your secrets
you are everywhere these barren days
sex-crazed leaving traces on hard ground
on trees
making mistakes

showing yourself is your fatal flaw
you’re giving yourself away and you don’t know that
you cannot help yourself
I understand this behavior in my own flawed heart
sensing me in your space
I sense you in mine
we will both die here

but you are more beautiful
and this is why
you will be the first to die



To the mantis on the wall
I’m a shadow cast by clouds
cool stillness
interrupting the warmth
of autumn’s fading sun

Lithe green conscious machine
400 million years of insect evolution
unfazed by my superior intellect

Caught in that moment
of self-doubt
and sensing the presence
of an ancient predator
I retreat and anticipate
the uncanny evolution of empathy


text by Tullio DeSantis


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The Empress of Love


“The Empress of Love” – Tullio DeSantis with Dee Shapiro – 2014

(click image for larger view)

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