United States

Letter to the Children I Will Not Have

April 18, 2017

Link to video performance:


Text of poem

Letter to the children I will not have

i have started to offer silent apologies
to every child i see
you are two years old,
a cherub smiling on the train on the way to a baseball game
-- i am sorry
you are four and beaming out of a photograph, a car seat, a phone screen
-- i am sorry
maybe my bones carry a scant decade more than yours
but we spent those years burning bridges,
killing time we will never get back
we have drowned our history in our ruthless pride
burned the fossils of eons past and we are still learning 
we are also burning our future
how do we learn to live in a house on fire?

oh children that i will not have --
how would i explain that we stood in the flames and
asked politely
for better lightbulbs and nicer laws
that all the ink of all our signed petitions never drowned
the siren song of profit and greed
that symphony sweetened with a little god complex,
a little white supremacy,
a little bloated capitalism
a lot of blood
whose blood

oh children i will not have,
i do not want to hear you say
“why didn’t you stop this when you had the chance?”
how can i tell you that we asked our parents the same thing?
how can i tell you that climate change was still only a 99% scientific certainty
(and no one ever cared about the 99%, right?)
how can i make it sound
like we did not do this on purpose?

i do not want you to see me die
when i am stranded without insulin
in some unnatural disaster
i do not want to die of something preventable
i do not want to see the planet die of something preventable
climate crisis should have been preventable

is not my extracurricular, this is survival
-- do you understand, i can feel it,
the weight of this death sentence
-- i am afraid.
chronic illnesses borrowed 13 years from my life expectancy
and won't give them back
i do not want to be sacrificed on the altar of our crumbling world
i choose to fight
because i refuse to go quietly
refuse to let desolation carve a galaxy under my ribcage

so tell me dreams do not die in rising seas
tell me in the final hour we will hold each other’s hands
and dare the sky to fall
we will feed no one to the reapers
show me how when the reckoning comes
we will not dig our graves and sing the same song of hubris
of indispensable nations
and disposable people

but i guess i don't know, still,
if i see lights at the end of this tunnel
i see smoke

but even
if we are left with only ashes
i have to believe we will rise
lift up our children, heirs of this grand catastrophe
and write a new story
to carry on.


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  • April 18, 2017 - 3:33pm (Now Viewing)

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