Lit Thursday: The First Person Who Will Live to Be One Hundred and Fifty Years Old Has Already Been Born

A poem from Nicole Sealey's debut collection, Ordinary Beast, out September 12.

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The First Person Who Will Live to Be One Hundred and Fifty Years Old Has Already Been Born

[For Petra]

Scientists say the average human

life gets three months longer every year.

By this math, death will be optional. Like a tie

or dessert or suffering. My mother asks

whether I'd want to live forever.

"I'd get bored," I tell her. "But," she says,

"there's so much to do," meaning

she believes there's much she hasn't done.

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Thirty years ago she was the age I am now

but, unlike me, too industrious to think about

birds disappeared by rain. If only we had more

time or enough money to be kept on ice

until such a time science could bring us back.

Of late my mother has begun to think life

short-lived. I'm too young to convince her

otherwise. The one and only occasion

I was in the same room as the Mona Lisa,

it was encased in glass behind what I imagine

were velvet ropes. There's far less between

ourselves and oblivion—skin that often defeats

its very purpose. Or maybe its purpose

isn't protection at all, but rather to provide

a place, similar to a doctor's waiting room,

in which to sit until our names are called.

Hold your questions until the end.

Mother, measure my wide-open arms—

we still have this much time to kill.

From Ordinary Beast: Poems by Nicole Sealey. Copyright © 2017 by Nicole Sealey. Reprinted courtesy of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

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