What you think of us will not be your first concern,
just as you were not ours.
You won’t know we thought our diligence
would be your salvation,
that we looked out at the trees
and they just stood there.
We each cast a single shadow, longer
at twilight, yes, but soon we couldn’t recognize darkness.
Each pin in the map stood for ten thousand
and there were tens of thousands of pins
so we made more maps but found
the world wouldn’t grow.
Future, we knew so much for sure
there wasn’t room for it all.
Each mind was like a garage so stuffed with belongings
that cars had to park on the streets.
Soon there was simply not enough dignity to go around
or fresh water, which became the same thing.
The very air was like birdsong
we thought we could identify
but the birds knew it not at all, so didn’t sing. They couldn’t
fly any further south than this.
We thought we could change the subject,
that there were kingdoms yet to come.
We held truth to be self-evident
but it proved to be disguised, difficult
to tease out from our habits and necessities,
which became an embarrassment of exceptions.
The moon itself could be populated. Couldn’t it?
The stars bore out our cold abstractions. Down the pipe
always another pagan invention,
each meadow a place on which nothing was built yet.
People grew sadder for what seemed like a long time,
and then they got mad. Future, perhaps you know.
They had come to believe in pure mind
until matter put a cruel end to that short semester.
They never thought that if the wolves roamed too close to the door
their houses had been built too close to the forest.
Future, you became our article of faith,
a proper name, legally changed to rhyme with ours.
If tomorrow as I write is the beginning of you,
the atoms of the days and years between us
may change slowly enough, like failing light,
that you will even think you remember gardens.
Richard Terrill is the author of two collections of poems from the University of Tampa Press, Almost Dark and Coming Late to Rachmaninoff, winner of the Minnesota Book Award; as well as two books of creative nonfiction, Fakebook: Improvisations on a Journey Back to Jazz and Saturday Night in Baoding: A China Memoir, winner of the Associated Writing Programs Award for Nonfiction. He has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Wisconsin and Minnesota State Arts Boards, the Jerome Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. He works as a jazz saxophonist.