When you were gold and gleaming I came to you. When you were thrill-ache and maybe. When you were a candelabra’d ballroom with me spinning at the center, my gown emerald, lilac, cerulean. A midnight desert with me starbound at the center, hungry and picturesque. Verona at dawn, a medieval stone bridge with me river-watching from the center. When you were anything so long as I was at the center of it, and I always was.
Future, how did you stand me, solipsistic child? I never looked beyond my own narrow aperture. Future, I’m learning other colors: the slate-gray of industry, apathy’s watery yellow. I’m learning about the shades of fire, the subtle distinctions between metaphor and raze-a-forest. For years I pedestaled my imagination—all the alleys and corridors I could wander, all the cobblestone and punk-lit-neon! Now I wince at my radius.
Future, when I thought of you, I never thought of you. I mourned the places I’d someday leave and did not notice the Yangtze river dolphin vanishing. I planned my flight to Iceland and did not watch the glaciers sliding back and back. Now as I walk toward you, it isn’t hard to see the smoke and hurricanes, the starfish strung with plastic. It isn’t hard to see the denials stacked like seawall rocks. What I’m working on is what’s beyond all that, the part I can just make out past the flames and cracked riverbeds. There’s green there, a wild emerald. Lilacs spill everywhere, and the sun gleams gold. The sky is the skyest of colors. I’m nowhere to be seen. And there’s no one to see me. Or you.
Yours, of course,
CATHERINE PIERCE is the Poet Laureate of Mississippi and the author of four books of poems, most recently Danger Days (Saturnalia 2020). Her work has appeared in The Best American Poetry, the New York Times, American Poetry Review, The Nation, the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day series, and elsewhere. An NEA Fellow and two-time Pushcart Prize winner, she is Professor of English at Mississippi State University, where she co-directs the creative writing program.