Charif Shanahan
Conversation in Long Future Time

You see, darling, 
The biggest problem was that they

Could not seem to agree
On whether they all were the same animal

Nor could they agree, therefore,
On whether they all had equal value. Value


They measured, not merely by the fact of breath,

Rendering value obsolete

As a matter of course, but by paper

Dyed into various colors. (They could not agree


On a single color, colors were very
Hard for them, darling.) And that paper 

That was dyed and used to measure
Value, passing from hand

To hand, from lover to lover
And so on and so forth,


Came, of all things,

From their trees, when their trees


Created the very air they breathed

Which, though of life, was, to them,


Not of value. And so we know

They had gifts great enough to see


Into and out of their condition: the voices

They sang with, the music and poems

And toward the end, before the fire rain
Came and the oceans lifted and merged into one,

Even the structures they lived within

Which healed them as they slept. And though 


The minds of many were truly formidable, truly
Formidable, the hearts of some

Alert and alive, they were so detached

From one another, even from those they chose

To birth or raise or walk beside, often existing
Entirely in their bodies, or not at all,

They required something they called a self

Which I think, darling, 


Meant they would have believed that

You were not I


Not ever—

Which, to us, now, would seem silly, wouldn’t it?






Found In Volume 48, No. 05
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Charif Shanahan
About the Author

Charif Shanahan is the author of Into Each Room We Enter without Knowing (Southern Illinois University Press, 2017), winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry and the Publishing Triangle’s Thom Gunn Award. His poems have appeared in New Republic, New York Times Magazine, PBS NewsHour, Poetry, and other journals. He is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship; the Wallace Stegner Fellowship; a Fulbright Senior Scholar Grant to Morocco; and residency fellowships from Cave Canem Foundation, MacDowell Colony, Millay Colony for the Arts, La Maison Baldwin in St Paul, France, and the Rauschenberg Foundation, among other honors and recognitions. Former Programs Director of the Poetry Society of America, he has taught poetry at California College for the Arts (CCA), Collegio di Milano (Italy), Dartmouth College, and New York University. Currently, he is a Jones Lecturer in Poetry at Stanford University.