Skip to main content

poetry And for a Time we Lived

California poet Rebecca Foust addresses an accustomed high standard of living that we know is precarious, evanescent.

And for a Time we Lived

By Rebecca Foust

like gods     we said water & there

was water

we said light      & there was light

so much light at any hour

photons harnessed & pressed

If you like this article, please sign up for Snapshot, Portside's daily summary.

(One summary e-mail a day, you can change anytime, and Portside is always free.)

into service     the water was pure

except in certain neighborhoods

near the old factories & mines

the air was almost pure

except in certain neighborhoods

where it was poison     we wanted

for nothing     we had work

& we had play—amazing play—

actual plays on a grand scale

before town-sized crowds     there was

fresh fruit out-of-season

& sustainably-caught fish     our wish

was Siri’s command

supply met demand so far as we knew

& if we lacked bread or wine

we were borne for more in cars

that kept our feet

from touching the ground     borne

so fast it felt like flying

& there was actual flying then too

there was always more more

in profusion     there was     yes     confusion

& general alarm

the usual armies clashing by night     wildfires

derechos     earthquakes      wars      cops

killing young black & brown men in the streets

& occasional curfews that taught us

to rise & retire with the light     we had bread

& circuses streaming endless new episodes

we had devices for everything     electric combs

& toothbrushes

robot vacuums     GPS     laptop panopticons

from which we viewed the world

at a great remove     aside from all that

birches silvered by moonlight

cherry blooms like a wedding     live oak & owls

blinking on telephone poles

our screens were a window & also a barrier

& shield     terror was distant

& noiseless unless the sound was turned on

commerce & culture & chaos rolled

like a benevolent tsunami across & through

our mostly green lands

we met in large groups then     & often

touching each other’s faces & hands

Rebecca Foust’s seventh book of poetry, ONLY, is forthcoming from Four Way Books in 2022, and new poems are or will be in Bracken, The Hudson Review, Narrative, New Letters, Nostos, and PloughsharesRecognitions include the 2020 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry judged by Kaveh Akbar, the CP Cavafy and James Hearst poetry prizes, a Marin Poet Laureateship, and fellowships from The Frost Place, Hedgebrook, MacDowell, and Sewanee.