An excerpt from The Rumpus Poetry Book Club‘s November selection,
The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On by Franny Choi
forthcoming from Ecco Books on November 1, 2022
DISPATCHES FROM A FUTURE GREAT-GREAT-GRANDDAUGHTER
Dear Improbable You,
What was it like to live so gridded? So trackchanges?
So carceral, somnambulent, asphyxiating at split screens
while Nation glowered with rot? What was it like
to slouch numb-faced here and watch your image
get dirty with Algorithm elsewhere, shuffle into destiny’s schlep?
Did your pulse come haptic? Did you pay money for food?
Did you dial three numbers and salute genocidaires
with crestwhitened incisors when they knocked? Did you pray
ever? Hope, any? Or did you take a number,
snatch what scraps you could, and pet your children?
Everything was happening, and you were alive.
You were alive then. What did you do?
: : :
Great-Great-Grandmother, I’m writing to you
under chartreuse skies, after the Great Verticality,
and after the Multiwars and their Various Rebrandings,
and after Tipping Points #1-379,
and after, finally, the Very Long, Very Slow Dispersal of Things.
I wonder if you can imagine it: the tall tall oceans,
the smell of sick-gas (weirdly sweet) and sani-spray
(like if toothpaste were a vegetable), the rhythm of jumpdancers
on the boardwalks, water swinging in barrels, grass-fed grass.
There are twelve different siren patterns, one for each kind of crisis:
two honks for fire; three short trills for a runaway brain;
a Loneliness Emergency is a low swoop followed by a chirp;
and so on. There are crises every day, and there’s also bread
bubbling on the counter, pickled beans, a cat who comes home.
What I want you to know is that we’re okay. Hurting
but okay. We’re surviving, though it’s true,
we don’t know what that means, exactly.
: : :
Some rituals I do to imagine what you knew about freedom:
move my fingers over glass, swipe like a question;
swallow a bullet and stay silent until it passes;
touch my lips to silicone, sand, silicone, sand;
walk into the ocean and let the waves kick me over,
then dry in the sun and lick the salt from my forearms;
sit facing a friend and hold our palms together without touching;
take turns completing the phrase, It could have been that… ;
draw my face from memory;
ask a friend to bind me with rope until I can’t move, tense up until I cry;
then laugh until the ties loosen; until everything loosens;
: : :
Under a graphless sky, I’m writing to say: thank you for healing
what you could; for passing down what you couldn’t.
I’m plentituding what I can; what I can’t, I let tunnel me
like roughage, like a “bullet,” like a slur I won’t daycare.
What you gave me isn’t wisdom, and I have no wisdom in return,
just handfuls of lifestock: Everyday, a sky is.
Miles are. We sing, entangled, and the root-world answers,
and together we’re making. Something of it. Something
of all those questions you left.
From The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On by Franny Choi. Copyright © 2022 by Franny Choi. Excerpted by permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.