• Earth Day Poems and the Wrath of Days


    “It’s when I’m weary of considerations,/ And life is too much like a pathless wood…/ I’d like to get away from earth a while/ And then come back to it and begin over…/…Earth’s the right place for love:/ I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.”—Robert Frost, Birches

    1. If: Counterpoints

    If you marvelled at the dance of the Northern Lights
    Counterpointing the smouldering plumes of ashen smoke
    Billowing out of an Eyjafjallajokull cradled by melting glacier,

    Or quietly scanned the opal horizons of Banda Aceh swathed
    In a glorious sunset chiaroscuro before the waves claimed
    Atolls and infants back into the rip tide roar of that tsunami;

    If you were ambushed by an unforgiving temblor that rocked
    Haiti out of its romping in reggae regaled beaches turned
    Into common graveyards of carrion crushed under rubble;

    If you have walked through cherry-blossom-strewn streets
    And smiled at strangers’ hallooing: How about this spring?
    Before rampaging twister funnels crushed hearths and homes;

    If you have strolled and danced ragtime beat on Orleans’
    Roadhouses rocking rampant with rap and razzmatazz
    Before Katrina’s wrath wreaked hell’s hurricane havoc;

    If you still marvel at forest flowers as God’s fingers
    And espy sandpipers bolt through thicket cramping marsh
    Before infernal flames crackle through Santa Barbara’s hills;

    If you have stolen kisses and felt purloined embraces
    In the limpid ripples of Cancun’s caressingly undulant seas
    Before the onset of the curdling spill on the playa negra;

    If you braved the stygian stink of Ilog Pasig and sang songs
    While harvesting floating tulips, debris, or stray crayfish
    For some foregone repast before it turned into River Styx;

    If you have lived through these and now blow fanfare
    For Earth’s being the right place for love or maybe care,
    You might yet begin to accept that Mother’s lullabies were
    Also her gnashing of teeth when you wailed through nights
    When slumber would have allowed her love not tantrums
    Of infants grown now and “quartered in the hands of war”:

    2. Wrath of Days

    How else explain the wrath of days descending
    not into quietness but pain? Has she not kept her anger
    in check for all the tantrums of the Ages: Thermopylae,
    Masada, Ilium, Pompeii? Hiroshima, Auschwitz, Nagasaki?
    Stalin’s pogroms? The death chambers and Holocaust trains?
    Polpot’s killing fields in Kampuchea? Rwanda’s genocide?
    Before it lured tourist trekkers, the verboten Walls of China?
    The Berlin Wall? The Gaza Wall? Fences of n.i.m.b.y.
    neighbours: India and Pakistan, Iran and Iraq, splintered
    Korea, the Irelands shorn of the emerald isles, the fractured
    United Kingdom where the sun has finally set on its Empire,
    the still haemorrhaging American southern states crippled
    and still unyoked from black history but seething now
    from the African-American’s irascible entitlement —
    With Zimbabwe’s apartheid, Congo’s rapes, Ethiopia’s
    hunger, Sudan’s ceaseless putsch tango, Somalia’s piracy
    trade, tribal wars in Uganda, Namibia, Botswana, Kenya,
    will blacks overcome someday, soon? Only if they, too,
    would get munitions from Venezuela’s bottomless vaults
    gurgling with black gold, aceite y petroleo, and Oil of Ages.
    Lubricator of the war and killing machines, In Oil we Trust.

    3. The Spill and Fall

    Has it gone any better? Love on this piece of terra infirma?
    That’s when Mother shushed you back to sleep,
    An impatient rhythm clipping away what should have been
    A gently lulling melody from the Song of Ages:

    “Rock-a-bye, baby on the treetop; when the wind blows,
    The cradle will rock. When the bough breaks, the cradle
    Will fall; and down will come baby, cradle, and all.”
    The bough breaks, and you scream. Too late for that.

    This is not a dream. The freefall is Mother’s little slip
    When she could no longer hold you still, somnolence
    Finally taking over, and your cri d’couer, a scream
    For help, for caress, for all the love gone from an empty room.

    The cradle falls, she can’t pick it up. Exhausted and utterly
    Spent, she mutters in her sleep: Spare the rod, spoil the child.

    Tomorrow, if it comes, Mother will prop up — backaches
    Assault her waking days now — will step into her plimsoll
    As she would her dancing pumps, oil-soaked slippers.
    She will slip and fall before anyone else wakes up.

    She will yell: “Damn it, who spilled oil on the floor this time?”


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