I wrote this poem in August 2015, about the time that the school year was beginning. The title originally functioned as a way to recreate the image of teenagers grumbling as their summer ends and the regularity of classes and homework return, thus the opening lines: “Everything was tomorrow, but not now.” Then, as I let the poem take me where it wanted to go, the tone and subject matter shifted dramatically and told a different story that involved my own reminisce of school days and now-lost friends, then it returned in the end to those now-young people who look at us once-young people as we once looked at our elders.
They Come, Growling
Everything was tomorrow.
But not now.
Some was yesterday, and most went
by unnoticed. That one kid
humanized the leftovers, and
the green sprouts went on, shooting
up. The hard brown dirt allowed little
cracks, and what was before unseen,
unknown, came to take the place of what
went away. That one kid went away, and gave
his name to that part of the story.
We’ve agonized over
these memories, but it has been
OK in the end— or as close to the end
as we are now.
Since the glory days of springtime
summers, we’ve morphed, ossified,
and even begged for mercy when it was
appropriate. Marble columns fall
and shatter, where saplings may sway
and return upright. Some had fatal
flaws: a split in the trunk, a lightning
strike, a creeping disease.
Yes, luring the future with a trail of sweets
that we should have eaten ourselves
gave us the impression that the sacrifice
was worth it.
We swindled sidewinders for small guarantees,
just for today, because we opted to worry
about their fangs for all time.
They come, growling,
out of some need for our wilting.
That one kid stayed behind, and I
kept going, and now we aren’t
except by those who forgot.
About ten years ago, I all but quit submitting poems to literary magazines and began sharing a few here. To read previous (Unpublished) #Poem posts, each with its own mini-introduction, click on the title below: