Saturday, April 15, 2017

Matthew Olzman Poem

Letter to Someone Living Fifty Years from Now

By Matthew Olzmann

Most likely, you think we hated the elephant,

the golden toad, the thylacine and all variations

of whale harpooned or hacked into extinction.

It must seem like we sought to leave you nothing

but benzene, mercury, the stomachs

of seagulls rippled with jet fuel and plastic.

You probably doubt that we were capable of joy,

but I assure you we were.

We still had the night sky back then,

and like our ancestors, we admired

its illuminated doodles

of scorpion outlines and upside-down ladles.

Absolutely, there were some forests left!

Absolutely, we still had some lakes!

I’m saying, it wasn’t all lead paint and sulfur dioxide.

There were bees back then, and they pollinated

a euphoria of flowers so we might

contemplate the great mysteries and finally ask,

“Hey guys, what’s transcendence?”

And then all the bees were dead.

Copyright 2017 Matthew Olzmann. Originally published in Poem-a-Day, Distributed by the Academy of American Poets.

About This Poem: “Despite the environmental panic that’s now at the heart of this poem, it began as a simple meditation on shifting landscapes. Each time I go home to visit family, I notice how much more has changed: new roads, new stores, bigger buildings. The poem sought to consider these types of changes, which can be subtle and barely noticeable or—when viewed after a significant period of time has passed — immense and stunning.” — Matthew Olzmann

About Matthew Olzmann: Matthew Olzmann is the author of “Contradictions in the Design” (Alice James Books, 2016). He teaches at Dartmouth College and in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.