The Futures

by Chad Sweeney

I search the futures for the eras that have subsided
I search the pasts for future generations,
Wandering heaven and earth without limit
I arrive at myself, everywhere, weeping.
— Ch’en Tzu-ang

or three days from now you’ll get up

and cough and spit and push
the lever that sets birds loose from sleep
the machinery of pigeons
revolving above bridges
the colors drawing up from underground

to take their places on the hems
of skirts and on the waters

and you’ll tug the cords of gravity
to pull luck toward you

to disentangle the possibles from the probables

to interrupt the great silent sequences that halo
from the awnings and the myriad
loves will thank you, god help us,

so early in the morning


or you’ll place tender pauses in prisons

an inch of air above the mouths
of the dying, bruised air,
flower of the mouth, windowed air

and arcs and circles of leaves
in the acacia

will mirror the dome of the sky

where this low earth wind
rustling of lilacs beside the refinery

will reflect a higher wind in heaven

where our actions go on beyond us


or a child will be born in the Grief District of New Orleans
and her name will be No Hope Anywhere

or we’ll pray all night for rain

or we’ll pray all night that a second moon
be placed in the sky over hell

or the colors of candle flames in hell
be unbearable

casting gravity in bronze rings
over a city of weeping lovers
asking what have we done?


or hell be a sidewalk in Cleveland
where a man carries his body liked a locked suitcase

or a messiah will save us at last

from waiting for messiahs to save us

or a new kind of hero to swoop down on the safe

and one angel will be called Saigon

and one angel will be called El Paso

and one angel will be called Damascus

and one angel will be called Detroit

and their voices will murmur against the prows of boats

and their cries will sound as the sounds of cities

and one angel will be called Aleppo

and one angel will be called Pittsburgh

and this graveyard be a feeble navy
guarding our sleep

against the holy vastness of night


or every thousand years God will say one word

into the blur of tires on wet pavement

or the cum cries of lovers or

God will say Look down, wash
the ants off your feet

or God will say nothing
into the hush of icebergs melting

or icebergs will drift into New York Harbor

and the water in our bodies will bow


from the poet

“The Futures” is the first sequence in a book of prophecies to be titled The Futures. The book is comprised of a single long poem, one sentence that begins with “or” and ends with “or” to show the continuity of time without end. The project is in dialogue with ancient and medieval traditions of prophecy, yet rather than representing time and “fate” as deterministic and linear, these prophecies attempt to trace multiple possible futures for an era of quantum physics and dramatic ecological and socio-economic change.

Read another sequence from The Futures, “Prophesy of the Heartbeat

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