Poems by Joan Baranow

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photo by David Drewry

Dear Future

Preliminary treatment uses screens or grinders to capture or macerate solids such as wood, Q-tips, and dead alligators so they don’t muck up the works further down the line.
     —Dave Praeger

by Joan Baranow

From Canary Spring 2017

Joan grew up in New England and rural New York in the midst of dairy farms and deciduous woodland. Her arrival in California coincided with several years of heavy rainfall—a sweet welcome to this usually arid climate.

We tried, really. When ooze gooped up the ocean
we invented suction to separate plastic from salt,
but too many dolphins got torn apart in the process
and you know how we felt about dolphins.
After that Congress canceled the Internet
and put the country in reverse.
No one could remember bologna sandwiches
or Simon Says anymore anyway.
The Super Bowl, however, remained
high octane. We hosted parking lot brawls
and instantaneous T-shirts.
Not so Women’s Lib weeping at the seams.
It all depends on what we thought was real.
Sidewalk cracks were avoided.
As were robo-calls. Even the thought
of lab animals patched up for the night.
We could never agree on which death
was best for the country. On whose terms.
Clearly humans had become immune to irony.
We engineered nets to catch the suicides,
then legislated assisting them to death.
Please know these were the good days
before you replaced us. We thought
nothing of trading hearts among species,
injecting toxins to effect a cure, passing
the body through enormous magnets to map
the damaged gut.
It was good times. It was plenty
of packaged beef, bubble wrap, clam shell,
call waiting, deodorant, non-stop flights,
zero prime rate, Safe Zone training, and
antimicrobial copper-alloy surfaces
too slick to stick to, though
measles made a late comeback at Disneyland.
It was easy to get sweet on nature
with a bottle of amoxicillin in the fridge.
We stripped off the lead paint and installed seat belts.
We figured death happened to other people
for the best reasons. The worst, they say,
was picking Q-tips by hand out of
the sewer grates. That was 10% of the job.
The rest was shoveling sludge from city drains.
As I said, despite being a bickering, tormented lot,
we tried. We really did.

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