Letter to My Great, Great Grandchild
after Matthew Olzmann
Oh button, don’t go thinking we loved pianos
more than elephants, air conditioning more than air.
We loved honey, just loved it, and went into stores
to smell the sweet perfume of unworn leather shoes.
Did you know, on the coast of Africa, the Sea Rose
and Carpenter Bee used to depend on each other?
The petals only opened for the Middle C their wings
beat, so in the end, we protested with tuning forks.
You must think we hated the stars, the empty ladles,
because they conjured thirst. We didn’t. We thanked
them and called them lucky, we even bought the rights
to name them for our sweethearts. Believe it or not,
most people kept plants like pets and hired kids
like you to water them, whenever they went away.
And ice! Can you imagine? We put it in our coffee
and dumped it out at traffic lights, when it plugged up
our drinking straws. I had a dog once, a real dog,
who ate venison and golden yams from a plastic dish.
He was stubborn, but I taught him to dance and play
dead with a bucket full of chicken livers. And we danced
too, you know, at weddings and wakes, in basements
and churches, even when the war was on. Our cars
we mostly named for animals, and sometimes we drove
just to drive, to clear our heads of everything but wind.
Copyright © 2020 J.P. Grasser. Originally published in American Poets vol. 58. Distributed by the Academy of American Poets.
About this Poem
“My climate anxiety had reached fever pitch—I was constantly worrying about the state of the world, about our collective inaction, about my own role in the problem, about the sprawl of the human ego in general. The idea of future, any future, seemed impossible. Then I spent ten days in Montana's Centennial Valley, hiking and birding, studying the language of the landscape. It changed me, and with that change came the understanding that protecting the future demands presence.”
Date Published: 2020-04-25
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/letter-my-great-great-grandchild