“Ten Year Challenge” by Sasha Stiles

Sasha Stiles


Ten years ago I finally handed in my ancient
Nokia, spilled Pinkberry on my Blackberry,

met my husband for a drink before I knew
practically anything about him. Obama

was sworn in, got his Nobel Peace Prize,
and we swore it would all be different now.

I had mousy bangs. Scientists sequenced
the whole mouse genome and discovered

water on the moon. Moore’s Law was still
going strong. Cheap mind-reading headsets

hit the gaming market. I never used one,
busy playing my own games, firing my

neurons hypothesizing what next, troubleshooting
my mysterious mis-wired technology.

Africa’s population hit one billion that year,
having doubled over the previous quarter century.

Troops and drones surged in South Asia.
I got a flu shot, flew to China, let a heat-seeking

scanner take my body temperature as I crossed
the threshold to the Shaanxi History Museum,

where disposable surgical masks were trending.
Climategate opened, the great healthcare debate

heated up, the auto industry stalled. Sully saved
all the people on his plane. As ever, we were

coming and going, leaving, arriving. That much
hasn’t changed. The present’s always ending,

so we live infinitely in the past and possible,
inveterate time travelers with failing hindsight

and prophetic vision. Get ready: 2020’s nearing
with its own time travails, another Prime decade.

In ten more years we’ll know how to implant IQ,
insert whole languages. I’ll be a superpoet, then,

microchipped to turbo-read neural odes,
history of sonnets and aubades brainlaced,

wisdom wended through the jugular, inspiration
ad infinitum. We’ll print solely on ether,

cloud vellum indelible, every word a relic
of sentient reverence pressed with angel ink,

medium of our new nature. I’ll go back
to bangs, a halo, fringe low over my eyes

to thwart AI reading my face. We’ll book
VR visits to the dearly departed, the first class

will splash out on private reservoirs, and fresh
spring water will sparkle, rare, diamond bright.

The Dead Sea will die. Lake Chad will be a pale
blue memory. California will quake. Voyager

will keep rushing its gold record into the sunset,
still the most urgent message anyone’s sent.

Humans and robots will be best friends
or mortal enemies. Some of us will be living

in heaven or interstellar space, our new horizon,
and I will miss you terribly. Listen, no one

ever said the future would be easy.

from Poets Respond
January 22, 2019


Sasha Stiles: “In lieu of posting a #10yearchallenge pic, I starting thinking about what the world was like in 2009, who I was then, and where we might be by 2029. We’re grappling with so many urgent issues, and the coming decade will render things unrecognizable again in so many ways, from the personal to the geopolitical – that’s the ten year challenge on my mind right now.” (web)

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