The Coming of the Post-Truth Age: a three act history by David Taylor

The line between living life to the fullest

and living it to its lowest—

an oyster yanked free of clean waters

so its insides can be dissolved in wine

a car driven quickly because what’s the point

of a fast car if not to be quicker than everyone else

eating more because you can

the corporate party fireworks display heard

by children without lunch

In the temple they corner her

our Cassandra the foolish girl who spouts nonsense

up in her room with studies of ice cores and glacial

melt rates and extinction models

calculating the amount of plastic going down rivers to the sea

rainforests disappearing to beef farming

but surely talking nonsense—mad woman—it can’t really be true

the far side of the altar is in shadow

so naturally she retreats there, heart’s beat as rapid

as her steps, breaths coming quick as they advance from

both directions and she realises the game is up

and do they see in her eyes along with frustration

with disdain do they finally see the fear

read it on her face and believe?


David Taylor is an English Teacher in Aotearoa, New Zealand. He was a 2012 Woolf Fisher Fellow and a 2015 Fulbright Distinguished Teacher. He has published poems, reviews, opinion pieces and academic articles.

Author's note

I wrote this poem some time ago. I had been considering what the major myths of our own time might be and it struck me that most of them had already been told. In this particular poem, I was considering the disappointment of living in a time when anthropocentric climate change has been widely accepted but without any corresponding widespread change. I had naively thought, for years, that once the world knew the truth about the climate crisis we might sort ourselves out. But it appears speaking the truth is not enough and, in some cases, is still a dangerous—or even cursed—pastime. It's also hard to consider the story of Cassandra without being confronted by the dark, misogynist implications of the story which also, unfortunately, are still all too evident in our modern discourse.