The Future We Want

Jeffrey Yang



is transparent: a change in historical

structure away from repetition and inevitability to

renewal: for the weight of the alps on our brain

to lift like a cloud and dissipate: gone the lobbyists, power

divides from debt, ahead the garden where children play and grow

a dialectic of subsistence making time time: “the future we want”

is transparent: the regeneration of our minds and lives in the real:

the simplicity of clean air clean water, the rivers purer and undammed, the land

tended with care, food free of agrochemicals and hormones, free of spliced

genes, the ideal is clear: no more industrial pollution, no more military-defense industry:

we’ve had enough refugee tragedy to allow us the present

embraced, more satyagraha less duragraha breeds less bitterness: “the future we want”

is transparent: the greening of the mind

in energy, energy our eternal delight: no offshore drilling, no hydraulic fracturing, no

mountaintop mining, to make nuclear power as safe as a windmill

and decrease our consumption-need in our search for alternatives, what

doesn’t melt the ice sheets and devastate forest biodiversity, what preserves

ecosystems and indigenous lifeways, “the future we want”

is transparent: glass not plastic bags, no more take-out containers

as we can reuse our own, no styrofoam, less medical waste, less

for convenience and more mindfulness, lights dimmed shadows deepen

the least harmful carbon imprint, self-

interest zeroed to one’s self among others

for the benefit of near and far: a politics no longer based on the image

but on a fusing of referent and sign, for realigning the signs

holds the keys to the kingdom    here    in the unfinished

heaven, earth as clear as the robin’s egg, that blue

beyond reasoning, “the future we want”

is transparent: as lichen itself is symbiotic composite

more mutual aid, respect, dignity, as in the aftermath

of catastrophe arises extraordinary communities: time

to play the mandolin or badminton, compose, write letters to friends, sports

without corporate endorsements, time to read and think, to relate, study the stars

or a mushroom, time to dance to sing to learn a new language

cultivate value in the everyday: today, vatic pronouncements aren’t difficult, how to mean

what we say is difficult, though easiest of all is to say nothing and act

accordingly: “the future we want”

is transparent: the vision of a child’s present:

no more business practices like cyanide spray on a coral reef

better to undo the causes and recognize the effects of our habits

to prevent toxic dumping, dumping in poorer countries, dumping

in oceans and space: more conservation policies across nation-states, more positive

boycotts less sanctions, as unlimited profit-expansion will not sustain anything:

in the world of interrelation and difference, no responsibility transcends

the unfinished heaven: air circulates earth, sky overlaps sky, forest dwellers seed

swidden-fields, cities balanced in local communities, “the future we want”

is transparent: is transparency, incomplete, the curve

of the swan’s neck, a dream of the present, the inrush

of conversation that roots attentiveness


[Note: In the spring of 2012, the United Nations asked several “creative thinkers” to envision “the future we want” as part of their campaign for Rio+20, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development held in Brazil in June. The idea of the initiative was “to generate support for a more sustainable future.” This poem was written in response to this invitation and was originally published on their website.]





Jeffrey Yang is the author of the poetry books An Aquarium and Vanishing-Line. He is the translator of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo's June Fourth Elegies, and Su Shi's East Slope. Yang is also the editor of Birds, Beasts, and Seas: Nature Poems from New Directions and Time of Grief: Mourning Poems. He works as an editor at New Directions Publishing and New York Review Books.