Paddling in the Sound

Not long after the election, when the left had failed

to reassure the broken hearted,

and the broken hearted had elected a lunatic

out of spite, I kayaked out to where the light

had never been torn,

to watch the darkness gathering

in the mountains’ seams.

 

Cool rain on flat seas, ducks ahead of me,

white trails of their wings beating water

as they fled. Fresh scent of snow in the wind.

 

A loon in the distance

began to call again and again,

a soliloquy from the sea’s grey throat,

each note going deeper into

where a certainty had once lived in my heart.

 

The longing in the loon’s call—a knife

cutting through rain, leaving nothing behind it

but more longing, more rain.

Song of the Suburbs

Our houses are decaying    plants wait to take control         no they don’t wait     they ceaseless

send their rootlings along the soil’s pathways     wheedling      their limbs unwind               across

blank         space                      filling up with light                 blocking the light

 

Meanwhile in the East        snow presses its heavy breast     against the eaves of a ranch house

the gutters tear away         sheets of packed ice lance   to the ground         watch out!

 

Our neighborhoods erode       woodpeckers drill utility poles

      kerkerkerkerkerkerkerkerker       how do they move their heads

so fast we wonder      but they do           holes accumulate

      a lacework        someday they’ll topple          and then            

kablammo         no more power  

 

Oak roots down below         thrust up        concrete sidewalks         bust up        Maintenance!       Maintenance!

someone call the city          the sidewalk’s all ajumble

 

And the freeways oh the freeways are a mess

       just look at all the new holes      every time it rains

             the veritable earth      dropping    out      pulling     away           the asphalt     withdrawing

        Never mind never mind          we’ll shelter in our houses         until we can no more

Kestrel in an Apocalyptic Landscape

Kestrel: (from French crécerelle, derivative from crécelle, i.e. ratchet)

 

Also known as windhover because he can hover, even in still air, but when he

hovers he usually faces toward a breeze, no matter how slight.

 

Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote

 

Dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding / of the rolling level underneath him steady air . . . .

 

Say that aloud: in his riding / of the rolling level underneath him steady air . . . .

 

rolling level underneath him steady             five troches that roll along

like a wave, cresting and falling, cresting and falling   and land         lightly             on air

 

In some future time and place a kestrel perches on a leafless branch on a leafless tree, waits

for something to stir. The landscape is open, naked, brown as his dominant plumage (but oh

the blue-gray of his wings, the black streak descending from his eye like a tear).

 

With a push he sends himself into the rolling level underneath him steady air. All is silent

except for the clack of his feathers as he holds himself upright facing into a breeze,

tailfeathers spread, wingfeathers spread, head bent like a penitent to scan the ground.

 

Scorpion.

 

He tilts and sleekens and spills himself down, talons thrusting, strikes.

 

Dead insect in claw he lifts and flaps back to his tree, to the hollow space in its trunk, where

she waits for him with the new one, first to emerge from the clutch, and only.

 

He drops his gift and she shares it with the hatchling.

Displaced Water

Somewhere from the diagrammatic stolon

of overgrown seagrasses, a voice carries

to the surface—to live radical compassion,

not just speak of it. The spiders still have not forgiven

me. The fish kill cited in the civil suit just a bead

in the course of stories scrolling by in my palm

like air pockets in rain—over 600,000 displaced

in Sri Lanka, two hundred dead and counting.

This is late May, 2017 AD. Flashbacks

of headlines some years back—

that heatwave which claimed some 2,000

in India but can this be more than read, felt

as the steadfast lamprey must feel, mooring

the stones of its own deathbed in the cool

lunar hollows? How it must feel, to prescribe

a burn, to watch the Oroville overflow with

predictions, the denial, no more water

in the pail! No more moon in the water!

What blame can be placed on the government

now? Someone says relief and means it.

Suppose blood could be set afire

with a simple question. Suppose we could

touch through the screen. Suppose speeding,

solitary, down the breathing highways

at the center of me, a course burns

its engine towards a future where hope

has long gone become obsolete.

Eruptions

The land knows

what we refuse to learn:

 

sometimes you must destroy

what has come before to create

new, unsullied things.

 

***

 

There are places my feet have trod

that are gone

never to be loved again.

 

The fire consumes

slowly, with enough time to flee

yet still relentless in remaking.

 

***

 

The ash like snow, blankets

the black cracked land covering

all that came before.

 

A goddess shows her children

the wisdom of destruction

 

***

 

The swordfern, the Ohia Lehua take

their first breaths, explore, make

a mission of re-seeding.

 

***

 

What comes next will be better,

and if not?

 

We burn it down again.

From the Editors: How Can I Look Up

for Michael J DeLuca

 

How can I write you this letter

 

through thick smoke the sun

a red dot in the sky

I should not be able to stare into

 

How can I make an appointment

with the car dealer

while mother Tahlequah takes

her tour of duty      displaying for us

hairless monkeys what the rest

of the natural world already knows

 

How can I take a shower

when thousands of people have poison

                              to drink

How can I look out the window at the moon

stroke my cat’s chin

                    make my bed

How can I admire the late blue background

and mountain silhouette on the ferry heading home

 

How can I take a seat on a bus

hurtling toward a city of dog-walkers     businessmen

and concerned shrugs of passers-by

it’s terrible this smoke it’s all terrible

I know          it’s really terrible      I know      I know

 

How can I bring the sleeping children home

after a long day of amusement park

fried foot-long corndogs

How can I look up my visa bill when

our relationship with the earth

is toxic

stored now in blubber

of whales that send us warnings

and raw grief

a suffocation of sound and light

in the realm of the dead

 

How can I make plans with a friend

     buy groceries          drink tea

while we are plunging toward an inevitable

tipping point

no return

extinguishing what has been

like a comet

or a cancer

or a chapter of some future history book

 

when we alter landscapes          lose habitat

when the world shrinks

gets hotter     tighter    angrier

goes hungry

 

How can I search for a lost coat

my favourite          when

we are losing                    every day

pieces of our humanity

of green

of corals and bees

and owls and streams

 

How do I rekindle passion’s poetry without falling into despair

feeling holding me there

when I exist in coffee pots          lists          renovations of the old

dish-washing          laundry          finally unpacking all my books—

finding homes for paperwork and tools

getting on them weeds in the garden out of control

testing recipes

collecting that fruit before it rots on the trees

 

How do I do the deep work

maintain connection to that slightly

MAD state

and go about my day                    lost as I long to be

 

How can I sit in an alley playing drums with a Turkish immigrant

How can I breathe smoke on the shoreline while

using my cell phone as a hot spot to

send an email about a postcard for a

talk about climate change

 

How can I sleep?

 

How can I ask a friend how I can do these things when

he says

How can we anything

 

My heart breaks because other hearts do not

my heart breaks and I go on making plans

scheduling dates

daydreaming about getting laid

calling out to alley cats

          to birds overhead

          to the leaves in the trees

 

How can I dress myself for success

add accessories

buy lemon tarts

browse antique stores

try on possible new shoes

 

my generation acquiesces to the inevitable

while millennials dream of Super Heroes

bursting through the screen

 

Somebody

do

something

do

something

I want to scream

Let go of every device in your hands

and look up                    are we going to lose

the sky          on our way to losing the sea

 

How can I leave space                    for us

to breathe

 

How can I

unbury your ears

shape a new kind of listening

to what is under our feet          and floating

still-born          (yet still hoping)

all around us                    stating the obvious

 

How can we anything          he asks while

chopping onions and peppers

to feed his young family

in the midst of idling engines

cooked rivers

air-conditioned ignorance

and addiction to machines

Will We Be Good and Kind at the End

When the long drought comes,

scorches the hands of the healers

will we bandage them

with clean white gauze

so they can continue their work

and when kindness faces starvation

will we look into our pantries

and gather, quickly

to feed her

 

when the winds come

raging and spitting

and buildings begin to buckle

at the knees,

will we rush to the labs

swing open all the cages,

release the macaques and chimps and baboons and dogs and rabbits and mice and rats

finally,

finally

 

and will someone run

and free Adam Capay

and all the others

and all the plexi-glassed

others

 

and when the sea’s belly

swells and lifts us up

above rooftops and eagle nests

will we grab hold of anything we can

and hold its head up—

try to save it

 
 

Development

First, we made sure the world was devoid of sentient inhabitants.

Its turquoise skies grew greener (we thought) as summer waned.

On the wine-dark sand we drew diagrams and planted pennants:

a cultural center here, a spa or hotel there, on an imaginary beach.

At least one of the suns was always rising, and the light perfect

for filming, as if the planet were a vast, floodlit stage. Shadows

radiated and swung like compass needles in a geometer’s dream.

Our shielded clothing and the protective coatings on excavators,

fabricators, and constructors faded quickly under the incessant

illumination. No one could agree on what the colors had become,

but we tried to name the new shades anyway: peripatetic, swelter,

welkin, shudder, grudge. All our off-world concepts lost relevance—

something about the fluctuating solar spectra. Estimated project

completion was indefinitely postponed.

 
 

A Hundred Years From Now

for Rabindranath Tagore

 

At the dawn of the 21st century

in this era of war and deaths

my soul seeks refuge in poetry

though no one writes like Wordsworth

or Keats because lakes have dried

and daffodils do not bloom to inspire

the poets—the sylvan vase no more

impresses them to find a seam

between truth and beauty

Once the world of innocence

the world Blake portrayed in his poetry

was the world readers would dream

to build—now experience fraught with

greed flares up all over

We have witnessed world wars

and read The Waste Land

still millions have taken the road

Frost declined to pass through

Now we write elegies for Aylan Kurdi

for thousands of other children too

We write poems on mass migration

on Syria, Palestine, Myanmar

on chilling Charlie Hebdo tragedy

and Manhattan massacre

or on Rana Plaza disaster

But what else should I take refuge in

if not poetry, if not the words

written for a world free from war

and violence and blood?

Sitting under a tree without leaves

by the bank of a river without water

near a field without grass

I see a young poet writing a new poem

after 100 years on tree, field, river

and flower in imagination—

imagination indeed creates poetry

From this heated globe

from the world of the dying

with this bleeding heart

I send my love to the young poet

my best wishes for a better world

Many things will be extinct after 100 years

Forms will transform

Even the deathless will be forgotten

but words will continue to live

I’m the Villain, Ok?

I want to sit in my SUV

combust dead dinosaurs

into aerosols as tangible as need

I want the Monsanto magic

    for my lawn, my Big Boy tomatoes

I want to wait in the drive-through—

    engine roaring, gas escaping,

    invisible music pumping into my box

    sealed and thus safe from the outside—

    for my chicken made of corn

    my shake made of sugar (made of corn)

    my fries fried in corn

What matters is this moment

    the right tempo to tap my fingers to

    phone surfing, wifi filling space

        from here to Saturn as the years drag on

    to know no matter how much I cut

    myself off from touch, taste, smell

    I am not alone