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)