845: Dear Future Me (#12)

845: Dear Future Me (#12)

845: Dear Future Me (#12)


I’m Major Jackson and this is The Slowdown.

People ask all the time: what is writing poetry like? I say: For me, writing poetry is like donning special sunglasses, as though one were suddenly cast in a classic grainy black and white film, riding shotgun in a convertible that travels along a countryside, in which the cameraman, precariously lodged on the side of a mountain, suddenly pans in close to one’s laughter, a mouth traveling at 30 miles an hour, while a minimalist soundtrack provides texture and mystery.

No, writing poetry is less performative in its enactment of its special powers of vision, though most often its form of seeing occurs at the level of metaphor, life itself understood by understanding something else. What you see becomes your muse.

Writing poetry is chiefly a search for language that makes a tidy explanation of both the present and the past, with the hope our mind grabs on so that the poem emerges also as a visceral experience of thinking, that is, thinking as an unfolding and awakening, both for the author and the reader or in this instance, a listener.

But then occasionally, writing poetry is also an offering to the future: poem as a container of time, whose language signifies the era in which it was written. Take, for example: “Let us go then you and I/when the evening is spread out against the sky.” Thank you, Mr. Elliot, for a wee slice of the early 20th century. The poem can be read as a report of the author’s thinking and feelings filed away for a future reading.

Today’s superb poem makes explicit poetry’s relationship to time, selfhood, and metaphor in surprising language—that goes beyond performance to a true fullness of heart and spirit.

Dear Future Me (#12)
by Lena Moses-Schmitt

Here’s how it’s going lately.
This morning the minute I sat down
to write a poem
the men outside in orange vests
and hard, white skies strapped over the heads
started up their jackhammering.
D, I typed, and set off an explosion of sound.
My thoughts vibrated in my jaw. Every bandage
on my brain ripped clean off. All the wise
and gorgeous things I want the skill to say
began to circle the drain. And I was left
with this: Why do I like poems?
Life continues, I guess,
except it’s very loud.
Lately I’m too tired to care
about getting old. I never put my phone down.
I scroll many futures away. I sleep many futures
away, I write them away, the longer I live,
the more the future disappears.
Then again, at least when I type tysm
I feel like a cool little snake
wearing sunglasses. Don’t mind me.
I’m working through all the mind trash.
Do you think of harming yourself?
No, but I have other desires.
I’m afraid. What if you’re someone
you don’t want me to know? What if
I’m someone you’ll wish to disown?
God, just leave me alone for once. Yesterday
on my just-before-dark walk
I saw a few pretty things: a gasp of birds
flirting through the brown barcode of trees
in the park, a shadow of a half-ladder
casting an H onto a roof, as if the light
was starting to spell House.
I imagined the sun with its giant typewriter,
smashing down the keys
and was relieved…I’m just another person.
There is such little use for fear.
But of course there are the things you know
and then the things you feel.

"Dear Future Me (#12)" by Lena Moses-Schmitt. Used by permission of the poet.