Albany Poetry 
Workshop Logo

Poem for the End of the Century

Sheila Ferguson


The new millennium awaits
around the corner,
just beyond the cornerstone
of all I believe in.

It approaches too fast,
I am not ready for it to arrive.
I hear its footsteps falling...

Growing up in a small town,
I am accustomed to knowing-
the names of my neighbors,
and all of their children.

Friends and families,
carried more importance;
could be counted on.

As we grow more civilized,
modern cities replace smaller towns,
erasing the person.

Families shredded,
torn apart by divorce
or miles.

I fear tomorrow we may forget
the human bonds
we all need to survive.

I fear the continual
diminishing of people
connecting to people.

I hear the future calling-
It roars out my name,
I answer...
hoping my fears are unfounded.

January, 1998

Sheila Ferguson's questions:

Do the last few lines get rid of most of the negative comments?

Or is it still too negative, even with them?

Sheila: Okay this piece, in my opinion, has potential but still needs some work. It works as a sandwhich, the opening and closing stanzas are good, they hold power, but the tomatoes and lettuce in between are thin, and lack taste, in a metaphoric sense, I dont mean your stanzas lack taste, just that they need more elaboration and imagery. Stanza 2...It approaches too fast, I am not ready for it to arrive. That basically says the same thing. The third line, I hear its footsteps falling...this is an image that needs more elaboration. You use the simile of the mellenium having footsteps, meaning some huge beast or something, but thats all you have is footsteps. This needs more clarity, compae the mellenium to some giant beast that will squash you like an insect. Bad example, but you see my point? And if something like that were used in stanza 2, it would be a nice and efective way to entice your readers to continue.

Next stanza...I would kill the line, growing up in a small town, it doesnt make much of a difference the point is morality is changing despite one's background. I grew up in NYC, but that doesn't make me any different than you. The rest of this stanza, and the next one I think should be combined, and focused more on the overall unity of human beings rather than bringing only "your" perspective of the people you have been around. As a whole, this should be expressed.

Stanza 6...excellent, I love how you used the line "as we grow more civilized" when in fact thats the facade we like to believe, great line. Great stanza, erasing the town, erasing the person...good.

Okay the next two are also good...

Now the closing...remember the opening image about the want to reintroduce that image to us, the simile of the mellenium and a huge beast. I hear the future calling, it roars out my name, I see the darkening shadow of its foot drawing near, and like a dream I cannot move, only hoping my fears are unfounded...something along those lines, I dont like to give examples of how I would do it, and thats not how I wold do it, but the idea is there. I like juicy tomatoes and green lettuce in my vegetarian treats! LOL

R Charles

NYC, NY USA - Sun Aug 19 16:06:37 2001
I feel the poem is the truth about how the millennium is apporching to fast and how the ccontry is chaging rapilidly.
USA - Sun Oct 31 13:05:26 1999
Sheila, the last few lines don't "get rid of" the negative, but they shouldn't. Combined with "cornerstone/of all I believe in" in the first stanza - the image of a building is powerful - it creates a contrast of known vs. unknown, concrete vs. imagined. The poem lost some of that vividness for me between the first and last stanzas. You list the things that give you comfort without showing how or why. I think more concrete examples/images would be helpful. Also, it might strengthen the final stanza if you changed the last line to something about "a solitary voice" or "waiting to hear the call of others" or something similar.
Cate Kulak
West Hartford, CT USA - Wed Aug 18 09:19:04 1999
hi! your poem is excellent, i don't kow if you are of indian origin but people here are really expericncing this what you have put in your poem, the more modern we get more we are loosing our pals and near ones to our worj and modernization
pune, ms india - Thu Mar 11 20:04:09 1999
Dear Sheila, The poem packs a nice punch. I think, though, that if you elaborate more on the sixth stanza, it would pack a better punch. Elaborate more on how this Millennium scares you more. Then, in the last lines, give more contrast to your expectations.
Richard Periut, M.D.
Little Ferry, NJ USA - Thu Oct 15 19:23:53 1998
Dear Sheila: Its a wonderful and a simple poem. You have expressed many complexities of our modern living through simplicity of your work. In 3rd line of 1st stanza you may substitute 'behind' for 'beyond'. I insist you delve more for stanza 3 to assert the human relations not just by 'knowing the names' but by ' living with intimacies' ( or similar words)and 'knowing all'.Then only the next 5 stanzas will have the effect desired I feel. Thus:

Growing up in a small town,
I am accustomed to living
with intimacies of my neighbors,
knowing all of their children.

Even you can modify the last line of 6th stanza like this: 'or miles that part us further'.
And finally can you try the last two lines of the poem saying: ' I answer not, from my silence, hoping that my fears are unfounded.'
- Rathnashikamani Bijja, India
Rathnashikamani Bijja
Kalpakkam, Tamilnadu INDIA - Thu Aug 20 05:41:09 1998
Sheila: I don't think you should ever try to "get rid of" an emotion created in a poem. Your concerns are valid and shared by all thinking people. You expressed well the destructive course that our society has set itself on. I hope that poets such as yourself, by not "getting rid of" the honesty in their expression, can somehow influence the course of the next millenium for the better. Good luck to you and keep writing.
Rick Scarberry
USA - Sat Aug 1 05:06:33 1998
Sheila, I found your poem to be in-depth in its simplistic message. All over this planet people are isolated and alienated from others. Our differences are focused on rather than our similarities and this is what makes us fear each other. Thus we distrust people and our own feelings for self-affection and unconditional positive regard. The only thing that may make your poem a little more readible is to not use the word people twice in one stanza/verse and perhaps add some unconventional/colorful descriptive words.
laurie christenson
Port Orchard, wa USA - Wed May 27 20:17:38 1998
I loved the first two stanzas of this poem, they almost seemed as though you were in a dream-like state. From the next four stanzas it was like you were "slapped in the face of reality", that the millenium was approaching and nothing and no-one can stop (which of course they can't!!)We really fear this unknown century and all it will bring, the last 25 years have changed so much, goodness knows how the new century will change us all. The IS no going back.... The last stanza I like also, apart, (dare I say it?) from the last line. I would have just leave it open ie:- I hear the future calling- It roars out my name, I answer... To me, it leaves everything open. We do NOT know what will happen, we only have these hopes and fears, no-one knows!! These are just my thoughts, i loved the poem a lot, it reminded me of my thoughts of the future and all we may leave behind....good luck with your writing. Best Wishes..Diana
Diana Todd
Newcastle upon tyne , England - Wed Apr 22 03:22:34 1998
Sheila, I did not think your poem was "too negative". It expresses an apprehension that many people share--a nostalgia for "times past," if you will. I too grew up in a small town and I long for a return (however improbable)to those "happier" times. You have struck a common chord. It is not diminished by its sadness (I think "sadness" is more accurate than "negativity"). I really enjoyed the poem, there was some difficulty for me with the sequence of events--Is your town growing ("As we become more civilized...") or have you moved to a larger one ("Families shredded...")? Are your fears based on the move to a new town or the changes you see in your hometown?
Patrick McGonegal
USA - Fri Apr 3 23:14:21 1998
I thought that your poem was realy sincier and I could tell that i t was realy coming from your heart but what I think that you should do is add more dicription. You want your reader to be able to smell it, taste it and realy feel you emotion through the senses. All and All though I realy thought that this was an excilent work. Thanxs for listening
Megan Reed
Evergreen, CO USA - Sun Mar 22 20:25:44 1998
Sheila: A fine end-of-century poem. Like the Milosz poem, this poem explores personal issues: it questions the changing and fluid nature of family and the bonds which tie us all together. These issues could be explored a bit more in-depth in your poem, however. Though I get the sense of what you are up to here, the point of the "erasing person" could be brought home more closely if you were to substitute such lines as "families shredded, torn apart" and the "continual diminishing of people" with lines of a more concrete and specific nature. That is, *which* families, and *which* people. If you were to write about more specific families and people from your own life experiences, I feel this poem would be much stronger.
Scott Reid
Healdsburg, Ca USA - Mon Mar 9 13:06:00 1998