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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.

typing prompt

Current Writing Prompt

There are a group of poems collected at about climate change, the rising global temperatures and natural disasters. We are in the season of tropical storms and hurricanes in North America and recently an earthquake in Haiti. The poems collected there all try to humanize the climate crisis.
The poem that caught my attention was “Letter to Someone Living Fifty Years from Now” by Matthew Olzmann. It is about climate change but it is the title that made me think of this prompt.

Write a poem addressed to a person or the people of the future. It doesn't need to be about the environment. The topic may not even be global. It might be personal. It might not be 50 years in the future. I can imagine writing a poem for my one-year-old granddaughter when she turns 21. It might be a letter to your future self.

Whatever your focus, some other poems in that collection might be inspiring. “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Glacier (after Wallace Stevens)” by Craig Santos Perez borrows Stevens' structure. Another poem by Matthew Olzmann also uses the epistolary form. An epistolary poem, also called a verse letter or letter poem, is one in the form of a letter (epistle) His poem "Letter Beginning with Two Lines by Czesław Miłosz," is a letter to now and the future. Its topic is clear from its opening lines:
You whom I could not save,
Listen to me.
Can we agree Kevlar
backpacks shouldn’t be needed
for children walking to school?


Deadline for submissions to our next issue: September 30, 2021

Please refer to our submission guidelines and look at our archive of more than two decades of prompts and poems, and our blog for much more.