'Boiling a frog' by Tom Denbigh

This article was first published in January 2020.

Meet 'The Future'

The Future is a series of short spoken-word films featuring inspirational poetry and performances from six up-and-coming young artists.

Each film presents a unique perspective on the future and confronts issues that really matter – from climate change to family ties, trusting in fate to the power of love. And they look pretty amazing too!

You can check out the whole series here.

Watch 'Boiling a frog' by Tom Denbigh

Meet Tom

Tom Denbigh is a poet from Bristol. He describes his poetry as playful, subversive, honest and often comical. He’s not afraid to play around with his audience’s expectations.

Tom describes writing and performing poetry as a “freeing” experience. It’s a form of storytelling – a way of sharing experiences and understanding others.

Poetry is important, Tom says, because it teaches us new things and tells us what we should have realised earlier.

Poetry can get very close to distilling actual thoughts and that's pretty incredible.

About 'Boiling a frog'

In his poem 'Boiling a frog', Tom imagines dating the future and tells the story of their failed relationship. He puzzles over how the future can't be tied down; how clinging on to it will only stifle its potential. Only by focusing on the present can we ensure the future remains bright.

These are themes which Tom explores in his book ...and then she ate him, where he holds up a "distorted mirror" to the world. In his day job, Tom works on climate change policy and says that, to him:

The future has seemed both hopeful and terrifying for a long time.

While he isn’t sure what the answer is, Tom believes that being mindful and "keeping one foot in the now" can help to put everything in perspective.

'Boiling a frog' by Tom Denbigh

I used to date the Future
which was
a lot
to be honest.

When my mum said
that dating an abstract concept of space time was a mistake
I should really have listened
imagine eating spaghetti
with a being that holds within himself
the death of all humans
kind of hot

When we first hooked up
on Tinder
things looked bright
I was never sure what he saw in me
Oh I saw so much in him
so much in us, together
he was rich with possibility
talked of
endless lush forests
space travel and
even joked (I hope)
of giant laser crabs.

I had to share him of course – poly
like all abstract personifications are
but really the strangest thing was meeting his exes
most of whom had gone
the other way
ended up married to that bad boy
the Past
which like
I kind of get
the Past is fit
lots of cool clothes
ice skating on the Thames
and Dinosaurs – right?
you do hear talk
about some of those really nasty things he’s done
so I’m not quite sure
why so many
straight white old men these days
just cannot get over him.

But the Future and I
I thought we'd never end
I didn't know any better
but I bet he did.

It started with small things
the forests he'd talked of were
the space travel
suddenly more urgent
and though things were really
hotting up
so to speak
it was like loving a desert
and not much room for life.

It was a bit like that one frog being boiled
that everyone talks about
really more
like sitting in your living room
with your family
watching TV
as the ocean
rises through the carpet
mm at a time
and no one notices
as Huw Edwards
announces the news at 10
from 4 metres underwater
and Grandma drowns

Our relationship was like that
I mean Grandma didn't drown
but the other things.

At first, I thought it was him
hiding his potential
but then I realised
it was me
by crowding him
I'd stopped looking at the world around
working on myself
getting drunk instead
on the sweetness of maybes.

So now
we're taking a break
I'm dating the Present
who's a very grounded guy
and I still love the future
but already he's looking brighter
without me.

For now
I'm gonna stay where I am
and let him grow
so he can be the best Future
he can possibly be
that's okay you know
he's not going anywhere
except forward
and really
who knows what tomorrow will bring

except for him
of course).

Meet the poets

Our six poets were finalists in the Words First talent development scheme, which saw BBC 1Xtra, BBC Asian Network and BBC Contains Strong Language come together to discover the best spoken word artists in the UK.

We asked the poets to write an exclusive poem for The Future and worked closely with them to develop the creative approach to the films.

To explore The Future, go to Bitesize Support or follow the links below.

Warnings, omens
to say what lies ahead may unpick your smugness
shake down the walls

Stick around by Birdspeed

Yesterday was tomorrow then today
Today was tomorrow
And tomorrow’s never promised

Expect the unexpected by SAF-S2E

You don't get to deal me my future

Card tricks by Christy Ku

There is a letter buried under my pillow waiting to be written

A letter to my mother by Amina Atiq

The answers will come soon,
there’s a scroll yet to unfurl in you

The best we can hope for the future is love by Esther Koch

If you need support

You should always tell someone about the things you’re worried about. You can tell a friend, parent, guardian, teacher, or another trusted adult. If you're struggling with your mental health, going to your GP can be a good place to start to find help. Your GP can let you know what support is available to you, suggest different types of treatment and offer regular check-ups to see how you’re doing.

If you’re in need of in-the-moment support you can contact Childline, where you can speak to a counsellor. Their lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

There are more links to helpful organisations on BBC Action Line.

'Card tricks' by Christy Ku
'A letter to my mother' by Amina Atiq
'Stick around' by Birdspeed