Guest Poet Cheryl Higgins

Future Guardians of America

I've left you my next life, daughter. I don't want it
Youth in the twenty-first century I saw in
Childhood. We all saw - we all had the bad visions
The war-fueled fears of eugenic prerogatives
Macadam-ed grasslands, poisoned air. Big Brother.

They were taking our men - they would make our children
From test tubes, strangers - accepting - informers
On us who might remember revolt. They shot us
On campus to seed our souls with how it would be
If we did, so we nurtured those seeds and stopped it.

My own last years seem small. I am grateful for a
Small world; I haven't yearned beyond it. Afternoons
I ride my horse through dark green pine and sweet air
Crackling of frost grapes, bayberry, over low walls
Built by toilers of the soil centuries ago.
I stop to lay my hand on the stones. At the gate
I lift the split rails down to pass cross others' land
Elder's land - those like me whose conscience bequeathed it
In Trust to the State. Not to an un-seeded child.
In winter, I see the woods squared with tumbled walls.

I place the rail back again, though the fence is gone
In the woods nearby. I respect the livestock law
Of gates. I more easily see rough pasture beneath
These second growth woods - or third - or fourth - than the
Ticky-tacky to come. Raptors turn overhead.

I ride the power lines home, up onto ridges
Past abandoned cars in boggy swales. From the rise
The road cuts straight through exposed bed-rock, a brown slash  
Wired from ridge to ridge and it comes back unholy
The future we staved off, and maybe left for you.

What have I given you, daughter? The wolves take elk
Again on Snake River, beaver on Mt. Katahdin.
Bald eagles raise young on roadside osprey platforms
For the school bus, late with a driver's note, how they
Watched the male dip into the road and feed its young.

Here, the tardy is unexcused, there's more value to
Tight rules for Boomer Children. The kids feel stupid
And won't say why. I rescue the note from the trash can
In anger, when I hear from a neighborhood mom
And press it flat - an historical document.

I'll wait to come back for my next life eighty years
Or more, after Big Brother's computer crashes
After his last big war when things are small again
Because how can you, unseeded, guard against him?
I won't be a test-tube child. I won't be soilent green.

When I die, daughter, scatter my ashes along
The old stagecoach road where it breaks out of the pines
And runs down into the reservoir if its still there.
That's where I stopped my horse to drink and looked across
To where the road came up again on the other side.

December, 1998

Cheryl Higgins's Questions:

I don't follow up with the first thought "I give you my next life, daughter, I don't want it.." right away, at least I don't ealborate on it, and I am hoping this is not much of a problem for the reader, who, hopefully reads on to paste the sense of it all together, and I tried to address it again at the end.  Might I have comments on that, and on content and transition from one idea to the next. I intend to describe a point, drop it and go on, as tone for the subject's way of having moved on from stages in her own life, yet carried parts of them with her to the end.  I'd like to rework parts of it, though, if its too "choppy".  I would value other observations of readers reading through this - I can't always keep perspective of what is being conveyed vs. what I have actually "said".  I have used stanzas of 5 lines, and tried to keep strictly to lines of 12 feet, although a few miss by one syllable or so, so I do want to keep to that.

Thanks for everything. 

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The Albany Poetry Workshop