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Poem: "The Sound of the Future" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "The Sound of the Future"
This poem from the January fishbowl was inspired and sponsored by janetmiles. It features one of my favorite historical figures -- living in Illinois has given me a deep appreciation for Abraham Lincoln.

The Sound of the Future

Abraham Lincoln looked at the time traveler.
“So I die tonight, and nothing to be done about it?”

“I’m afraid so,” said the traveler.
“Temporal mechanics just work that way.”

“Why did you come talk with me, then?” said Lincoln.
“I imagine a body could get in some trouble for that.”

The traveler leaned forward and said,
“Because everything you did for America was worth it.
Because we’re grateful to you for doing it.
Because it worked.
And because you deserve to know that.”

“Ah,” said Lincoln. “Thank you.”
A smile curled his rugged face.

Then the traveler pulled out a metal box.
“Listen to this, Mr. President,” he said.
Voices poured out of the box,
and Lincoln leaned near, dark eyes alight.
“… all counties reporting. Barack Obama is the first
African-American President of the United States of America.”

Lincoln lifted his head.
“What is … will be … the date?”

“November 4, 2008,” said the traveler.

“So long…” Lincoln mused.

“Well, the backlash after the war was pretty rough—”
the traveler began.

Lincoln waved him off. “I meant,” he said,
“that my country survives that long.”

“America lasts until planetary unification in 2029,”
the traveler added.

That night, Lincoln left for his date with history,
still grinning.

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12 comments or Leave a comment
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 11th, 2009 04:14 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you found this poem so touching.

There are times when America disappoints me deeply ... but at heart, it is a nation of hope and wild innovation. It may yet surprise us once more with its accomplishments.
seticat From: seticat Date: January 11th, 2009 04:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Ah, *very* nice!
From: christinaathena Date: January 11th, 2009 04:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Alas, Lincoln said the following:
I will say then that I am not, nor have ever been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races - that I am not, nor have ever been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, or intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of political and social equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together, there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion that I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position, the negro should be denied everything

Granted, this was in a political speech, and it would've been political suicide to argue much more than anti-slavery, so that might not have accurately portrayed his true views. Still, I rather suspect that Lincoln, like most whites of his time, did genuinely believe that whites were superior to blacks, and I doubt he'd be so accepting of a black President.

(Not to mention, he'd probably find the term "African-American" extremely odd, even if he could most likely deduce its meaning)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 11th, 2009 07:23 am (UTC) (Link)


There are many different things that Lincoln said, at different times, following the political winds. His private thoughts remain ... open to interpretation, but never with perfect clarity or proof. In some of his earlier socialist leanings, he was quite warm to Abolition and the plight of slaves, focused on the idea that every human being deserved a decent living. (There's a very sharp science fiction story that somebody wrote out of that.) For a poet, that leaves room for flexibility.

>> (Not to mention, he'd probably find the term "African-American" extremely odd, even if he could most likely deduce its meaning) <<

Now there I did take some artistic license, gambling on the man's thorough if largely homegrown education. He was pretty good at figuring things out.

And then I got to noticing that the name "Barack" is awfully similar to the Arabic "buraq" -- the heavenly steed. "Barack" is rendered as meaning "blessed" or "lightning" (depending whether you favor the Kiswahili or Semitic version, which are related anyhow) and likewise "buraq" is often rendered as "lightning." Interesting.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: January 11th, 2009 04:24 am (UTC) (Link)
mariness From: mariness Date: January 11th, 2009 02:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
While I think you may just be a little too hopeful about the planetary unification date...

This was awesome ;)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 11th, 2009 05:18 pm (UTC) (Link)


There are multiple opportunities for planetary unification. We've already missed several. I'm fairly confident we'll miss the next one around 2012, and 2020 seemed dubious. But there are potent centripetal forces; either we merge soon or the likeliest alternative is mass fatality. So 2029 was an educated, if hopeful, guess.
je_reviens From: je_reviens Date: January 12th, 2009 11:32 am (UTC) (Link)
love love love!
From: safirasilv Date: January 12th, 2009 03:07 pm (UTC) (Link)


I'm a bit dubious about planetary unification; I fear it would push far too much toward cultural uniformity in unpleasant ways. (Heck, one of the US's weaknesses is that it's a bit too large, although the overall national character is stubborn enough that regional differences survive.) But that doesn't lessen the impact of the poem.

Edited at 2009-01-12 03:09 pm (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 12th, 2009 05:39 pm (UTC) (Link)


When a species reaches a level that its local actions (such as building a nuclear reactor, or fishing) can have global repercussions, then planetary unification becomes imperative for survival. The economy went global some time ago; but without global coordination, what we have is a domino chain where one country's crash quickly knocks down others. We have one atmosphere, one hydrosphere, one biosphere; some people are being somewhat careful with those and others are not, to the extreme detriment of everyone. We are wasting tremendous amounts of resources in various wars, which would be much better directed to resolving more urgent problems. We could, at a stretch, feed all the humans currently alive; but we choose not to do so, based on nationally localized food distribution systems. Et cetera ad nauseam.

Either we learn to think and behave as Terrans, or we are going to knock ourselves back down below the level where we need to do that. This is a pass/fail evolutionary test, and right now, we're not doing very well.
anamacha From: anamacha Date: January 13th, 2009 11:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
damn poem made me cry. nicely done, thank you.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 14th, 2009 12:22 am (UTC) (Link)

*bow, flourish*

I am honored that my writing touched you so deeply.
12 comments or Leave a comment