Dear Updike

I dreaded those future aeons when I would not be present —

an endless succession of days I would miss, with their own

news and songs and styles of machine.  

          — John Updike, “On Being a Self Forever”

 

No, nothing much has changed.

A year later, the world is still one you’d recognize —

no winged cars to clog the air,

no robots to do our dirty work.

The hours and days, as it turns out,

just go on. No space age fabrics

drape our tired bodies, though I did try on a sweater

built of bamboo, soft as chewed silk.

The chrome surface of the dream’s lake

where I swim every night

still hides the same wreckage in its mud bottom.

Sometimes I open my eyes at the morning

and wonder what words you would wring

from the splendour and boredom

of these limited hours. Some day

there’ll be a future we won’t recognize,

but not now. Outside my window,

the low moan of winter in the ragged street.

Flakes of funereal ash falling from the sky.

The soiled comforters of the clouds;

the tightly wrapped buds of winter roses.

These grudging gifts of December,

tied in newsprint. For weeks after your death,

The New Yorker continued to print your backlog

as if death couldn’t stopper your creativity,

as if you were still writing in that midnight room.

But not a word from you now, and it’s dark at four.

 

Evelyn Lau, “Dear Updike” from Living Under Plastic. Copyright © 2010 by Evelyn Lau.

 

Source: Living Under Plastic (Oolichan Books, 2010)