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The New Regime Is Making Itself Right at Home

in the hand-me-down clothes of the old regime,
which fit perfectly. It’s commandeered the record
collection, strewed them all across the bedroom floor.
It refuses to slip them back into their paper jackets.
It turns up the volume and won’t answer the phone.
You know what to do at the beep. The new regime’s
wearing its hair in the old regime’s style. It’s using
shampoo and conditioner left in the shower.
It’s driving the car around the city, in dark glasses.
It dabs the old regime’s perfume on its pulse points.
In bed, the old regime’s boyfriend can’t even tell
the difference. The new regime pastes its face
over the old’s in the yearbook. It inherits all
the same superlatives, laughs at the same jokes.
The new regime’s here to stay. It’s eating off
the family china, watching the TV. It’s looking out
the old regime’s window, and the view is the same.


Because you’re new here, you need someone,
but I’m too busy trying to keep you
in the twentieth century a while longer,
feeding logs into the woodstove’s glowing mouth
while, in a house just down the street,
someone programs a thermostat.
Twentieth century? Who am I kidding?
It was never safe. In this young country,
you can trace danger farther than you can
follow it, back to fire licking the walls of caves,
back to flint skinning the animal to its source.
Nothing predates danger. A hundred years ago,
Roosevelt Avenue was not this green
tunnel of London planes, only rows of saplings
planted by someone looking toward the future
where we now live, always looking forward
or back. The twentieth century didn’t
keep me, but not for lack of trying.
I made it out alive. What can I say but stay
alive? You’re new, and there’s too much to learn.



          What is the future?

Everything that hasn’t happened yet, the future
is tomorrow and next year and when you’re old
but also in a minute or two, when I’m through
answering. The future is nothing I imagined
as a child: no jet packs, no conveyor-belt sidewalks,
no bell-jarred cities at the bottom of the sea.
The trick of the future is that it’s empty,
a cup before you pour the water. The future
is a waiting cup, and for all it knows, you’ll fill it
with milk instead. You’re thirsty. Every minute
carries you forward, conveys you into a space
you fill. I mean the future will be full of you.
It’s one step beyond the step you’re taking now.
It’s what you’ll say next until you say it.  


Maggie Smith’s second book of poems, The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison (Tupelo Press 2015) was selected by Kimiko Hahn as the winner of the Dorset Prize. She is also the author of Lamp of the Body (Red Hen Press 2005), winner of the Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award, and three prizewinning chapbooks, including the forthcoming Disasterology (Dream Horse Press 2015). She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ohio Arts Council, the Sustainable Arts Foundation, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, among others.