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Crossings: How Road Ecology is Shaping the Future of Our Planet by Ben Goldfarb, 2023. The author considers road ecology (the study of the devastating ecological effects of roads and highways) a "moral mandate" in the vein of Aldo Leopold: "a thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community."  This can be through wildlife crossings (bridges, tunnels, culverts), providing nourishing roadside plants, mapping migrations routes, deconstructing logging tracks, etc.  Roadkill is seen as the "inevitable cost of modernity...the allure of the car is so strong that it justifies it," a conundrum so similar to society's fossil fuel addiction! This book is a treasure trove of information and quite a cast of characters in the field. And it was gratifying to see sections on local efforts such as salmon passageways and the wildlife bridge on I-90. 

Climate Resilience: How We Keep Each Other Safe, Care for Our Communities, and Fight Back Against Climate Change, by Kylie Flanagan, 2024. Spotlighting a myriad of exciting activists from diverse groups-- Native Rights, queer liberation, youth climate-justice, Latinx wilderness, Flanagan emphasizes the need for place-based, community-led action beyond "status quo solutions, Big Tech promises" and old ways of thinking about "saving the planet." From seed-saving to community-owned energy, this shifts the focus to ancestral wisdom and right relationships as the true key to weathering the storms ahead with justice.  In the spirit of All We Can Save.

The Deluge,a novel, by Stephen Markley, 2022. One of the most significant works of climate fiction yet, a "ferocious, spectacular achievement" that not only "diagrams the complexity of our situation but maps a way out."  Multiple characters grapple with a convulsing world and political chaos (all too familiar), and their stories intertwine as they sacrifice and find the courage together "to salvage humanity's last chance."  Set from 2013 to 2030.  A NYT Notable book by the acclaimed author of Ohio.              

The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss, 1971. Can't believe that up til now I forgot this classic; Dr. Seuss's own favorite! Who can forget the Lorax, guardian of the Truffula trees from greed and destruction, who said,

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It's not!"

It is "appropriate for both younger audiences who are learning about the scarcity and fragility of natural resources, and also older children who can grasp the dangers of valuing short-term profits over long-term environmental harm."

The Heat will Kill You First, 2023, and his earlier book The Water Will Rise, 2017, by Jeff Goodell. "Through stellar reporting, artful storytelling, and fascinating scientific explanations" (Naomi Klein), Goodell  

documents the effects of extreme heat and sea-level rise, and humankind's various ways of responding--or not responding--to it, in a way that is extremely relatable and affecting, yet not without hope. "At every level the greatest obstacle to transforming the world is that we lack the clarity and imagination to conceive that it could be different."   NYT bestseller list.

The Parrot and the Igloo: Climate and the Science of Denial, by David Lipsky, 2023.  

This story of prevailing attitudes towards global warming over the years is totally entertaining in the most infuriating way!  His brisk account of the science, from the discovery of electricity to early warnings about CO2, and the anti-science denialists' "network of untruth," ruefully hits the mark.  And he never misses a chance to expose the irony of repeated delays of climate policy by "hucksters, zealots, and crackpots" hired by Big Oil  (many of whom had spun PR for Big Tobacco too).  NYT Editor's Choice.

Am I too Old to Save the Planet? A Boomer's Guide to Climate Action by Lawrence Macdonald, 2023. By the vice president of the World Resources Institute.  "This small book is a gem of great value: it will turn more of us older Americans from complainers and worriers into people who are fixing the problems that assail us. It makes a powerful case for generational action; if the kids can do it so can we!"--Bill McKibben.  We boomers bear quite a bit of the responsibility for our current global situation.  Offered here are concrete steps we should take as individuals and importantly, an invitation to join with others to bring about the systemic change that is needed. 

I Want A Better Catastrophe: Navigating the Climate Crisis with Grief, Hope, and Gallows Humor, by Andrew Boyd, 2023. The basic premise of this book is so dire that I hesitate to recommend it to all, but for me personally it was an extremely useful, timely read and reread--and it's surprisingly funny!  Lifelong activist Boyd asks various leading climate thinkers some very honest questions about how we can proceed to live and think and feel in the face of our current terrifying predicament.  "The most realistic yet least depressing end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it guide out there." 

Silent Spring Revolution: John Kennedy, Rachel Carson, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and the Great Environmental Awakening by Douglas Brinkley, 2022. This thorough chronicle of the 1960-73 environmental movement in the U.S. held several surprises/reminders for me--the amazing number of important bills that passed with full bipartisan support, the horrible state of air and water pollution before such legislative action occurred, and the great strides made in preserving priceless natural sites during those years.  The rhetoric of the times sounds almost exactly like that of today-- bemoaning human's disregard for the health of the planet and warning of our own self-destruction-- yet unlike today, they successfully acted on it together with enviable speed and energy.    

Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World by Barry Lopez, 2023.  His last work, this posthumous collection of essays by a giant of literary nature writing asks us "not to give in to the temptation to despair even though we know the world is in flames" but to respectfully and deeply "pay attention" to the planet and all its beings.  "We can no longer afford to carry on in a prolonged era of polite reflection and ineffective resistance." 

(A warning--although abeautiful and moving as all his works, this book does include a section about his childhood suffering as a sexual abuse victim). 

Fen, Bog and Swamp, A Short History of Peatland Destruction and Its Role in the Climate Crisis,by Annie Proulx, 2022.  Better known for her prize-winning fiction (The Shipping News, Brokeback Mountain), here Proulx gives a "stark but beautifully written Silent Spring-style warning" about the ongoing degradation of a crucial carbon-storing ecosystem; the wetland.

Black Earth Wisdom; Soulful Conversations with Black Environmentalists, edited by Leah Penniman, co-director of Soul Fire Farm and author of Farming While Black. She calls the 30 interviews "a conversation between African diasporic people who are carrying on our ancient ancestral practice of listening to the Earth to know which way to go.”  Black environmentalism is healing--not only for Black individuals but for the planet itself.

We are Water Protectors, children's book (ages 3-7) by Carol Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goode, 2020. "Written in response to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, the book tells the story of an Ijibwe girl who fights against an oil pipeline in an effort to protect the water supply of her people."  "Water is the first medicine, it affects and connects us all..."

Not Too Late: Changing the Climate Story from Despair to Possibility, edited by Rebecca Solnit & Thelma Young Lutunatabua, 2023. "Absolutely beautiful, absolutely necessary, and absolutely right!" (Bill McKibben)  "A powerful anthology of dispatches from the front lines of the struggle over the future of our planet, by some of the most important activist voices of our time."  (Amitav Ghosh)  Encouragement and practical suggestions are sorely needed to maintain hope these days, and this book provides them.

The Climate Book by Greta Thunberg, 2023.  Along with her "stories of demonstrating and uncovering greenwashing around the world," this book collects the knowledge of over one hundred experts on how to combat climate change.  Full of urgency yet hope.  "If a schoolchild's strike could ignite a global protest, what could we do collectively if we tried?  It has to be us, and it has to be now." 

Earth for All, a Survival Guide for Humanity, Sandrine Dixson-Decleve et al, 2022.  Inspired by the prophetic The Limits to Growth of 1972 and Doughnut Economics of 2020, this cutting edge "map to a better future" puts elimination of poverty and the social instability it creates front and center in the 5 critical turnarounds necessary for humanity's survival on the planet. "State-of-the-art computer modeling explores policies likely to deliver the most good for the majority of people."  Johan Rockstrom is one of the leading scientists and economists who co-authors.

Science in the Capital Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson, 2015.  40 Signs of Rain, 50 Degrees Below, and 60 Days and Counting (of 2004-7) are now updated with the latest research and published in one volume, titled Green Earth. These "eco-thrillers" combine "cutting-edge science, international politics, and the real-life ramifications of climate change."  Fans of the Ministry for the Future, (see below) take note! Robinson says "these days we live in a big science fiction novel we are all writing together."

The Big Fix: Seven Practical Steps to Save Our Planet, by Hall Harvey and Justin Gillis, 2022. An accessible, inspiring how-to for concerned people to make the crucial switch from "green consumers" to "green citizens" in order to compel action on climate change.  Praised by Al Gore, Bill McKibben, and Elizabeth Kolbert, who calls it "smart, honest, and down-to-earth."

Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape, by Barry Lopez, 1986. Acclaimed National Book Award winner, a classic of nature writing.  "Leads readers on a journey of the mind and heart into a place that grips the imagination and invigorates the soul." I recently heard a webinar panelist declare that this book changed his career path from corporate law to environmental policy! 

Erosion: Essays of Undoing, by Terry Tempest Williams, 2019.  A beloved writer and environmentalist, "her fierce, spirited and magnificent essays are a howl in the desert" as she sees democracy, support for public lands, and the environment eroding. See her poem below, which accompanies The Council of Pronghorns in the installation section.

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr, 2021. A novel set between 15th c. Constantinople, Idaho in 2020, and space some time in the future. He says “The world we’re handing our kids brims with challenges: climate instability, pandemics, disinformation. I wanted this novel to reflect those anxieties but also offer meaningful hope.”  It's a wonderful story by an amazing storyteller.

Overstory by Richard Powers, 2018.  Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about humans and trees and their deep connections.  Magnificent writing and powerful eco-advocacy.  

The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson, 2020. An amazing “what-if” mapping out a possible (mostly) positive scenario for the next 50 years.  Chock full of great solution ideas, could it be a blueprint for real-life world leaders today?

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, 1993. Considered one of the first climate novels, a forerunner in treating climate change and social inequality.

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, 2019. (non-fiction) Essays intricately interweaving botany, personal experience, and indigenous wisdom.  A truly outstanding book.

 

Poetry

Lighthouse, by Ellen Bass, 2024.

It's late and I'm pushing the baby in the stroller

through Lighthouse Field.

The grasses give off the damp straw smell of darkness coming on.

Walk, the baby commands.

So I unbuckle the strap and set her down.

It's February first and the ground's still swollen

from the atmospheric rivers that flooded California.

We were up till four in the morning,

with sump pumps and sand bags, schlepping

every sopping towel and blanket and bathrobe,

while the baby slept in her crib.

There are no cars here in the field

so she can have a little sovereignty,

as she wanders behind me.  And faintly,

I hear her singing to herself,

Twinkle Twinkle.

The whole song.  Like diamond sky.

She's almost two.  I'm seventy-five.

I won't be here when the worst

of what's coming comes. I think about it

and then I try not to think about it.

And then I try to think

because if we don't--but I can hardly grasp it.

I mean her in it.  The tiny glint of her voice.

Something starts to collapse. 

Love and dread are brethren

said a mystic woman in the Middle Ages.

For a moment the sun

reclines on the bare branches of the maples.

They're rinsed with gold.

And then the light is gone. The tree is itself again.

It's time to return the baby to her father.

The long beam of the lighthouse strobes the path.

I put her in the stroller and start walking fast.

How I Hold the World in this Climate Emergency by Cath Drake, 2020.

 

Sometimes I hold world in one hand, my life
in the other and I get cricks in my neck
as the balance keeps swinging. I walk uneasily.

Sometimes I am bent over with the sheer weight of world,
eyes downcast, picking up useful things from the ground.

Sometimes one shoulder is pulling toward an ear
as if it’s trying to block the ear from hearing but can’t reach.

Sometimes my body is a crash mat for world. I want to say
‘I’m sorry I’m sorry!’ but don’t say it aloud.
I am privileged so I should be able to do something.

Sometimes I lie on my side and grasp world like a cushion.
I’m soft and young, and don’t feel I can change anything.
I nudge world with affection, whispering: I know, I know.

Sometimes I build a cubby from blankets thrown across furniture.
There is only inside, no outside. When I was a child,
world was a small dome and change came summer by summer.

Sometimes I make a simple frame with my arms to look at world.
I’m not involved directly. It carries on without me.
This way I can still love the sky, its patterns of clouds and contrails.

Sometimes I’m chasing world through the woods, bursting
with hope and adrenalin. Oh God, am I running!
I want to keep moving. My mouth is full of fire.

Some days are like bread and milk. I just get on with pouring
and buttering. I want the little things to be what matters most again.

Sometimes I hold little: I’m limp and ill.

Days barely exist. It’s enough to make soup.

Playing with Bees, by RK Fauth, 2023.    (Fauth asks, "what happens to my imagination, my language, my daydreams, every time a peg in the environment is removed?") 

 

 

So the world turned 
its one good eye 

to watch the bees 
take most of metaphor 
                       with them. 

            Swarms—
                       in all their airborne 
                   pointillism— 
                               shifted on the breeze 

for the last time. Of course, 

the absence of bees 
                                   left behind significant holes 
in ecology. Less


                                   obvious
           were the indelible holes 
in poems, which would come
                                                            later: 

Our vast psychic habitat
shrunk. Nothing was

            like nectar
                                    for the gods

Nobody was warned by
a deep black dahlia, and nobody

grew like a weed.

Nobody felt spry as
                        a daisy, or blue
                        and princely
as a hyacinth; was lucid as 
           a moon flower.            Nobody came home


                       and yelled   honey!   up the stairs,

And nothing in particular 
by any other name would smell as sweet as— 

Consider: 
the verbal dearth 
that is always a main ripple of extinction. 

The lexicon of wilds goes on nixing its descriptions.
Slimming its index of references
for what is

super as a rhubarb, and juicy
as a peach,
or sunken as a
comb and ancient as an alder tree, or
conifer, or beech, what is royal
as jelly, dark as a wintering

hive, toxic as the jessamine vine
who weeps the way a willow does,
silently as wax
burned in the land of milk and

all the strong words in poems,
they were once

smeared on the mandible of a bee. 

Traditional Cree Proverb. (see tie-in with Aurora's The Seed, under Music section.  It has often been used by environmental groups, including Greenpeace for their banners in 1983.)

When the last tree has been cut down, 

the last fish caught, 

the last river poisoned,

only then will we realize that we cannot eat money.

X, by Imtiaz Dharker, 2015.

Hand shaking on the stop-cock, she looks
at the X, the warning cross,

the water-tap unlocked, its padlock cracked.
Breath hacks in the throat, Check your back.

Turn it on and an anxious mutter swells
to thunder in the plastic bucket. Don’t spill it.

Fill it to the top. Lift to the hip, stop,
balance the weight for the dangerous walk

home. Home.
Don’t lose a drop.

From the police chowki across the track
a whistle, a shout. Run. Don’t stop. Don’t slip.

A drag at the hip. Hot, hot underfoot. Water slops
up and out in every direction, over the lip,

over her legs, a shock of cool, a spark of light.
With her stolen piece of sky, she has taken flight.

Behind her, the shouters give up. She puts down
the bucket. The water stills.

She looks into it, looks up to where the blue
is scarred with aimless tracks.

Jet-trails cross each other off
before they die out, a careless X.

 

Earth, Sometimes I Play it Casual, by Catherine Pierce, 2022.

like Hey mercury, hey malachite, I'm busy today,
can't stop to marvel, but always my blood is saying
O god you starsprung miracle. It's self-preservation,

letting myself believe laundry matters,
letting myself believe there's anything other than
egrets and oceans and vast moss carpets and

the finite heart of every single person I love.
Earth, you terrify me—you are fierce green
and honeysuckle, you are herds of wild ponies,

and you are leaving, always. Is it any wonder
some days I look at my laptop instead of out
the window? Every time I glance up

there you are, quaking me with your fern fronds
and silver frost. O you of the rhyolite mountains.
You of the dew-hung web. You are lemon quartz

and quicksand. Muskrats and starfish. How
could I be any way but staggered? O blue spruce,
O white fir, O green forever, you know

my nonchalance is a sham. It's so hard to admit
our real desires. Earth, what I want is to sit gentle
under your twilight purple, watch your bats

hunt and dive. What I want is to know about
endings and still love each bat, each shade
of the boundless, darkening sky.

Untitled, by Robin Wall Kimmerer, 2013

Even a wounded world is feeding us

Even a wounded world holds us,

giving us moments of wonder and joy.

I choose joy over despair.

Not because I have my head in the sand,

but because joy is what the Earth gives me daily

and I must return the gift.

Let Them Not Say, by Jane Hirshfield, 2014.

Let them not say: we did not see it.

We saw.

Let them not say: we did not hear it.

We heard.

Let them not say: they did not taste it.

We ate, we trembled.

Let them not say: it was not spoken,

not written.

We spoke,

we witnessed with voices and hands.

Let them not say: they did nothing.

We did not-enough.

Let them say, as they must say

something:

A kerosene beauty. 

It burned.

Let them say we warmed ourselves by it,

read by its light, praised,

and it burned.

What Kind of Times Are These,  by Adrienne Rich, 1995.

There's a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill

and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows

near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted

who disappeared into those shadows.

 

I've walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don't be fooled

this isn't a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,

our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,

its own ways of making people disappear.

 

I won't tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods

meeting the unmarked strip of light—

ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:

I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.

 

And I won't tell you where it is, so why do I tell you

anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these

to have you listen at all, it's necessary

to talk about trees.

Mrs. Man, by Bonnie Mosse Funk, 2013.

She’s like the weather, he laughs,
moody and unpredictable;
but maybe she, like the sky and the sea,
has to accept what he does, this Man
who dresses her up in jeweled cities
and keeps her warm during winter
with carbon blankets and methane booze.

She’s like the weather, he laughs,
moody and unpredictable;
but maybe she’s not consulted
about his plans for her, his expectation
that she’ll be fruitful and multiply.
Lord knows, he provides her with enough
genetically-modified fertilizer.

She’s like the weather, he laughs,
moody and unpredictable;
but maybe this Man puts himself first,
like the time he spent the week-end
playing nuclear roulette with his buddies,
leaving the whole carcinogenic mess
for her and the grandkids to clean up.

She’s like the weather, he repeats,
moody and unpredictable;
but maybe her CO2 level’s just up,
what with his unreasonable insistence
that she be nice to his clients
who get high on fracked gas
and vomit crude in the domestic pool.

She’s like the weather, they’re now saying,
moody and unpredictable;
so maybe she should ask herself
if he’s really worth all that soot,
draped like a pall on her dawn.
But she, with nowhere to go,
sighs hurricanes, and waits.

Nature is What We See, by Emily Dickinson, 1860.

"Nature" is what we see--

The Hill--the Afternoon--

Squirrel--Eclipse--the Bumble Bee--

Nay--Nature is Heaven--

Nature is what we hear--

The Bobolink--the Sea--

Thunder--the Cricket--

Nay--Nature is Harmony--

Nature is what we know--

Yet have no art to say--

So Impotent our Wisdom is

To Her Simplicity.

Extinction, by Jackie Kay, 2015.

 

We closed the borders, folks, we nailed it.

No trees, no plants, no immigrants.

No foreign nurses, no Doctors; we smashed it.

We took control of our affairs. No fresh air.

No birds, no bees, no HIV, no Poles, no pollen.

No pandas, no polar bears, no ice, no dice.

No rainforests, no foraging, no France.

No frogs, no golden toads, no Harlequins.

No Greens, no Brussels, no vegetarians, no lesbians.

No carbon curbed emissions, no Co2 questions.

No lions, no tigers, no bears. No BBC picked audience.

No loony lefties, please. No politically correct classes.

No classes. No Guardian readers. No readers.

No emus, no EUs, no Eco warriors, no Euros,

No rhinos, no zebras, no burnt bras, no elephants.

We shut it down! No immigrants, no immigrants.

No sniveling-recycling-global-warming nutters.

Little man, little woman, the world is a dangerous place.

Now, pour me a pint, dear. Get out of my fracking face.

Hestia, by Ilona Inezita, 2014.

Claiming we’re gods,

Creating heaven,

When we’re nothing but men,

Destroying earth,

Creating hell.

Summer, by Abhijeeth, 2019.

It's a never ending summer
Every year is getting warmer
Stuck in an oven
A/C on twenty four seven
Nobody seems too worried though
busy dealing with life you know
Never ending summer
It's the new normal
Air around us filled with dust and smoke
Majestic whales filled with plastic
Nobody sheds a tear
Why would you care
For you it's only a slight discomfort
it's not an immediate threat
Why should I care about the oceans
Why should I care about the animals
They mean nothing to me and my life
This world is mine and mine only right
I am not gonna waste my time
thinking about humanity's crime
And besides what could I do to help
I am just a simple man busy with his life
I am not gonna reduce plastic in my life
I am not gonna raise my voice
Let these animals suffer
I got AC in my ivory tower
So let's burn our resources
Use plastic to fill our stomachs
And when it gets warmer next year

Don't worry.

It will just be the new normal.
 

Survival, by John Bartlett, 2021.

She's back again this year,

in heels and nuptial plumes,

coquettish

in pale eyeliner

            --the white-faced heron

selecting twigs,

thinking of survival

What rush of rapture

bursts

            --these birds

designed from

templates of dinosaurs

with songs that shiver

in the deep wells of the soul

So, despite 

the cracking ice

in Greenland, the rift,

the cleft, the split,

the speld

Despite the smell,

the stench, the stink

of burning forest,

I see you still,

framed

by cross-thatched leaves,

your changing of the guard

with stilt-stepped stealth,

this private pact

between you, 

this brooding hope

                 --triumphant.

 

Once I said that bubble wraps are a major source of noise pollution, by Jayant Kashyap, 2022.

 

and everyone laughed and I was happy about it.  Then I said that we are all dying and everyone laughed again.  So I thought it might have been funny

 

and told them about all the whales instead. And about forest fires and heat waves and defined anthropogenic activities.  Some didn't agree that we

could cause avalanches to happen or tsunamis, tornadoes and other issues with funny names either,

said the bears and porpoises need to learn to

adapt to survive, quoted a bit of Darwin and laughed again.  Everyone said I was being too dull or silly or boring or uninteresting and left me alone.

So I went to the library with a bottle of old red wine and read a bit more.  

      

 

Rise: From One Island to Another, by Aka Niviana and Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, 2018. Niviana, an Inuk from Greenland, and Jetnil-Kijiner, from the Marshall Islands, wrote and met in Southern Greenland to perform this offering between legendary "sisters" of two far-distant islands both imperiled by global warming. The cinematography and soundtrack of the film, produced by 350.org, are beautiful and moving as well. 

Performance on Vimeo

Excerpt:

 

From these islands
we ask for solutions.
From these islands

we ask
we demand that the world see beyond
SUV’s, ac’s, their pre-packaged convenience
their oil-slicked dreams, beyond the belief
that tomorrow will never happen, that this
is merely an inconvenient truth.
Let me bring my home to yours.
Let’s watch as Miami, New York,
Shanghai, Amsterdam, London,
Rio de Janeiro, and Osaka
try to breathe underwater.
You think you have decades
before your homes fall beneath tides?
We have years.
We have months
before you sacrifice us again
before you watch from your tv and computer screens waiting
to see if we will still be breathing
while you do nothing.

My sister,
From one island to another
I give to you these rocks
as a reminder
that our lives matter more than their power
that life in all forms demands
the same respect we all give to money
that these issues affect each and everyone of us
None of us is immune
And that each and everyone of us has to decide
if we
will
rise

 

Earthrise by Amanda Gorman, 2018. (first National Youth Poet Laureate) A Climate Reality project dedicated to Al Gore.

Performance on YouTube

 

Excerpt:

 

Climate change is the single greatest challenge of our time,

Of this, you’re certainly aware.
It’s saddening, but I cannot spare you
From knowing an inconvenient fact, because
It’s getting the facts straight that gets us to act and not to wait.

So I tell you this not to scare you,
But to prepare you, to dare you
To dream a different reality,

Where despite disparities
We all care to protect this world,
This riddled blue marble, this little true marvel
To muster the verve and the nerve
To see how we can serve
Our planet. You don’t need to be a politician
To make it your mission to conserve, to protect,
To preserve that one and only home
That is ours,
To use your unique power
To give next generations the planet they deserve.

Still, by Miriam Mosqueda (Indigenous Mexican/American poet and artist) 2021.

Performance on YouTube

Where I call home

Corn stalks stretch to the sky
Intertwined with cables
And rooftops

A backyard
Not a farm or a field
But we still call this home

For the corn seeds and for us

We both ended up here

Trying to find new ways to be
New places to plant
To grow

We still call this home

Even if we live in diaspora

Forced displacement
On ever changing land
That we’re in relation to
And never in ownership of

As guests
On this soil that so graciously hugs corn seeds into sprout into stalk into life
For us

The year our skies were red with rage from wildfires
Ash fell from above
Floating down and coating our garden gray
Smoke in the air and our lungs
We still placed corn seeds to earth

When a refinery was built next to our family home in Mexico
Out the window we could see it
On the other side of large brick walls were tanks and metal cylinders
trucks moved in and out
Things we’ve never seen before
And we still placed corn seeds to earth

600 gallons of oil were spilled into the water near us this year
Closing access to waterways
poisoning all it touches
A danger greed refuses to see
And we still placed corn seeds to earth

We still call this home

Dad says corn is the gold
Our little soil bed of memories
A prayer held in seeds
Thousands of years old
Corn gives us life when life around us
is changing

We both ended up here
Trying to find new ways to be
New places to plant
To grow
And grow
And grow

We still call this home

Speaking Tree by Joy Harjo, 2015. (U.S. Poet Laureate, Myskoke Creek nation)

 

I had a beautiful dream I was dancing with a tree —Sandra Cisneros

Some things on this earth are unspeakable:
Genealogy of the broken—
A shy wind threading leaves after a massacre,
Or the smell of coffee and no one there—

Some humans say trees are not sentient beings,
But they do not understand poetry—

Nor can they hear the singing of trees when they are fed by
Wind, or water music—
Or hear their cries of anguish when they are broken and bereft—

Now I am a woman longing to be a tree, planted in a moist, dark earth
Between sunrise and sunset—

I cannot walk through all realms—
I carry a yearning I cannot bear alone in the dark—

What shall I do with all this heartache?

The deepest-rooted dream of a tree is to walk
Even just a little ways, from the place next to the doorway—
To the edge of the river of life, and drink—

I have heard trees talking, long after the sun has gone down:

Imagine what would it be like to dance close together
In this land of water and knowledge. . .

To drink deep what is undrinkable

 

The Council of Pronghorns by Terry Tempest Williams, 2011

We, the Council

of Pronghorn

have convened

as witnesses

to this moment

in time

when our eyes

wish to peer

into the hearts

of humans

and ask

what kind

of world

are you creating

when we can

no longer

run as Windhorses

but are relegated

to watching

behind fences

dreaming, dreaming

of Spirit

Migrations

James Franco, I Was Born in Into a World, 2016

I was born into a world 
Before recycling was a thing, 
Before oil wars, 
When the biggest world 
Threat was nuclear. 

The only extinct thing 
Was the Dodo, 
We consumed and junked. 
Then we were told about 
Droughts, and disappearing 
Rainforests. 
About melting ice caps, 
And we fought Iraq 
For a second time, 
Like father like son, 
We needed our oil 
Because we didn’t want 
Those electric cars. 
At one time there were 
Huge monsters that 
Walked where we walk, 
Nature swallowed them easy. 
Or maybe you believe 
It all started with Adam and Eve, 

But they too were kicked 
From the garden 
As are we, 
With our poison beaches 
Run down towns 
And our atmosphere 
That kills. 
I write a poem 

And preach to the converted. 
We send out loud messages 
To ourselves, 
That our world is dying: 
1984, Blade Runner, 
Armageddon, The Road. 
I’ve yet to read a book, 
Or watch a film about a future 
I’d like to live in. 
Fortunately for me, 
I’ll die before the earth, 
But I’d like a place for my 
Computer chip self 
To click and beep 

In bright, clean happiness. 

Camille T Dungy, A Massive Dying Off, 2011 

It begins with,

 “When the fish began their dying you didn’t worry

      you bought new shoes...”

For entire poem

poetry
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