This selection, chosen by guest curator Sarah Clark, is from You Should Feel Bad by Laura Cresté, released by Poetry Society of America in 2020.
Poem for my Children Born During the Sixth Extinction
The first things kids learn in school are the seasons.
By now they already know their colors, maybe even their last names.
My children will learn hurricane and wildfire. It is summer and then it
They won’t know the sweet weeks of early June, honeysuckle,
wearing a sundress without sweat pooling behind a knee.
Maybe even a little cold at night.
They might not know bumblebees, not personally.
Polar bears they’ll read about like dinosaurs.
We’ll still have the old-fashioned disasters, a broken elbow, split lip.
I’ll try not to scare them, but when I see them eating unwashed grapes
I’ll tell them about pesticides. One will forget but the other won’t eat
fruit for years.
When they ask if I believe in heaven I will lie.
When they’re little I want them to feel safe.
When they’re older I want them to believe their bones
will lie dumb in the earth forever. This is your one life.
They’ll want to know what their parents did before they were born.
We had dinner parties. Traveled a little, not enough.
Read our friends’ books. Had a dog they won’t remember
but will pretend to, and too many plants.
Water-damaged the windowsill and lost our deposit.
When our spider plant mothered into twelve stalks, we potted them,
called them the spiderettes. They were supposed to be housewarming
gifts, but we didn’t know twelve people moving. We tried
not using too much plastic, not eating too much meat. It didn’t matter.
We knew our children’s lives would get worse every year.
We thought they might like to be here anyway,
to give them oceans, ice cream, optic nerves, the flowers, and all