Poet's Corner: Napa poet Jane Mead tells 'The Future'

This time of year, the days are shorter and the moon burns up, bringing night earlier each day. The world feels unpredictable. What future lies ahead in the months to come?

The apple orchards stand like leafless skeletons in the fog; their future harvest unpredictable. Will it rain too much, or not enough to bring in a good harvest come fall?

Many high school-age students are filling out their college applications and dreaming about the next phase of their lives. Will they be far away or closer to home? Middle-schoolers are discovering professions they had never heard about, and they try on those oversized lives to see if someday they might fit. The unpredictability of the future is what makes it so tantalizing to dream about. In her poem, “The Future,” Jane Mead takes on the disparity between what we believe the future could be and what it actually turns out to be. She begins with a succinct description of a child's perspective. “As a child, who you were/ was located in the future- / right?” But where does that idea live once we are adults? Does it live in the things that have happened to us, the humans and animals we loved and buried, the conflicts we faced or didn't face?

In the end, Mead's poem asks us to question the space between the dreams we had and the reality we faced. Was it “just as the scene was predicted? / Just as the act was forewritten?” Or, did our actual futures surprise us, like Venus bright in the winter sky? Did the future fill our orchards with a fruit so different we could never have imagined its bittersweet taste?

The Future

By Jane Mead

As a child, who you werewas located in the future -right? Now where isyour existence. Inthere were dogs -then we buried them?Berries, so we put themin jars? There wereGuns, so we fired themat one another, or didn't -.Just as the scene was predicted?Just as the act was forewritten?

From “House of Poured-Out Waters” (University of Illinois Press, 2001).

Iris Jamahl Dunkle is Sonoma County's 2016 Poet Laureate. Contact her at

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