Me only cruel immortality
Consumes: I wither slowly in thine arms,
Here at the quiet limit of the world,
fourteen billion years after the Primordial Era
only too aware that our swan-like Stelliferous Era
will after many a year dwindle towards its end
and all I have to look forward to
is the lights going out one by one
across the universe, galaxies coalescing,
stars burning down to embers,
till luminosity is but a memory.
Then will come the Degenerate Era
after a hundred or so trillion years
when the brand-newness of star-formation
is matter for photo-album-nostalgia
and there remain only brown dwarfs,
white dwarfs, all collapsing inwards,
the universe spiralling down the drain
swallowed after 10 duodecillion years
by the Black Hole Era –
till even black holes evaporate
gradually bringing about
the unending end,
the Dark Era, 100100 years of waiting,
positrons, boredom and cold
in which particles pass one another
across the street, barely saying hello.
After that, well, there may be something else:
belated divine intervention, a crunch, a big rip
in which spacetime itself is torn to pieces
but I know I will still be here
* After Alfred Tennyson, ‘Tithonus’ (1860), and Fred Adams and Gregory P. Laughlin, The Five Ages of the Universe: Inside the Physics of the Universe (Simon and Schuster, 1999).
Jonathan Taylor is an author, lecturer, editor and critic. His books include the novels Melissa (Salt, 2015) and Entertaining Strangers (Salt, 2012), the memoir Take Me Home (Granta, 2007), and the poetry collection Musicolepsy (Shoestring, 2013). He is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. His website is www.jonathanptaylor.co.uk.