I wrote this for Brave New Word‘s Legacy slam. Their focus was on what we leave behind. When it’s being studied at exam level they’ll recommend you read Percy Shelley’s ‘Ozymandias’, a great poem about legacy, to see where I pinched lines – I mean, paid homage to a poetic master. It was performed gorgeously at the slam by actress Orla Sanders. Seriously, I wish I could gift you her performance of it. Anyway, enjoy 🙂
When we’re gone,
When we’re all gone –
When we’re fried by solar radiation
Or nuclear irradiation;
When something like the heart of a star
Pops too close to our
Little blue glass marble world
And scours the surface clean;
When we’re hurled into a brand new scene
On our tiny planetary space station
As we make our way around the Milky Way –
(I say we, I don’t mean we,
I mean where we used to be,
Where the cluster of dust that used to be us
Is barely a memory)
What is left of humanity?
What is our legacy?
What would be seen
By a traveller from an antique land?
Our buildings, our cities,
Chewed up by trees,
Crumbled into forest fuel;
Our great stories forgotten;
Our languages rotten;
Our continents gone walkabout
On this brave new old world;
What survives us
When the earth sighs and stretches back
Into the cramped spaces stolen by humanity?
Because we couldn’t just go quietly
And leave the space free,
As we found it.
We’ve left our vast and trunkless legs to stand
In the future desert:
We’ve found our immortality.
We’ve sown a new strata in our soil,
And it swirls like a soup in our seas;
Lining the bellies of beasts,
So their stomachs will outlive them, poisoned, preserved,
For whatever set of opposable thumbs
Digs into this earth after us
Discovers our legacy.
Professors will study the Age of Plastic,
And chart the line of our mass-produced extinction.
There’ll be great debate
About the last of the great apes;
How will those future minds
Circle that square?
A people smart enough to tap the black bone soup
Of our own dead titans,
But stupid enough to sip from that same
Disposable picnic spoon.
They’ll study, but they won’t see
The lessons from our history
As they send their workers down underground
To dig in the plastic mines
And bring up those twice-buried, twice-cursed ancient bones,
That filled our world like ghosts,
Unseen, unnoticed, unvalued,
Used, abused and thrown away,
Out of sight and out of our minds.
We will be survived by our synthetics,
Undead, undying and ready to rise,
To scrawl across our little
Blue-glass marble world:
“Humanity was here.”
So take up your used water bottle
Pick up your one-shot coffee cup
Save your supermarket salad pot
Your sticky tape
Your smart phone
And your polystyrene packaging
And carve on each and every one:
“Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”
And know that when we’re gone,
When we’re all gone,
Your words will still be there.
(C) Amy Sutton 2017