The Earth Remembers Seven Sorrows
Come, says the wind,
let us make of the air flame,
spark and desolation,
dry wood and dead word,
into Babel’s rattle of confusion.
The mountain’s pines crackle
their scratchy warning of horror
across a valley slung low with heat,
its murky grief soot in our throats,
ash in our lungs, death in our eyes,
each pupil a target of fear.
Hope is a small charred thing
buried in the nose,
is a large, scarred wing
careening on the wind,
is a hot horizon, blistering
Yesterday, a man sat
aflame with loss on the grass-less plaza
of the Supreme Court, meditating
on the self-immolation of monks
protesting war, on the driven sacrifice
of climate advocates exploding excuses.
To burn oneself by fire, said Thich Nhat Hanh,
is to prove that what one is saying
is of utmost importance. There is
nothing more painful…
Or yesterday a man sat not
meditating, but legs outstretched,
silent, sixty seconds of wildfire
across his skin. Only later—
flames finally extinguished—
did his howl reverberate
across a city, the burnt nation,
the too-late prayers for the dead.
What did the wind say then,
but Weep and Turn, Move and Rise,
remembering the cries
where no ear listens,
the marble plaza quiet
again, the motto “Justice,
the Guardian of Liberty,”
far away on the other side,
the sun is rising.
And what of the sun? Ignition.
Combustion. A god’s blast of rage.
What Prometheus stole as warmth
incinerates any good intentions,
pride the flammable concoction
that leads to consequence:
humanity’s arson of the earth.
Each morning, the eagle of Zeus returns,
circles the rocky planet.
Peck, peck. Peck, peck.
Stony cliffs tumble,
slick glaciers slide into Gulf,
but what warms still
swirls into storm,
extremes once again
of the same.
Tornado’s the torch that lights
the cold of bomb cyclone,
freezes the heat we need
in this other season
Or fractures from fracking,
with who we’ve become,
the Earth and the Lord’s
poisoned with explosions,
with what’s injected
into the heart of fissure
camouflaged as rock,
as “need,” as 10 cents off
on the dollar at the chain
gas station down the street
from our neighbor’s clearing
where, once upon a time, we played
touch-football surrounded by
idealism and deer. Afterwards,
from the neighbor’s well, we’d slurp
water as cool and clear as memory,
then spit it out—the undeserved
taste of clarity still
too much to swallow.
In the fallen Eden of long ago:
plastic leaves scattered, scattering. So much
despair to swallow, this blue memory
of all our tossed-out refuse
tinged with autumn’s brittle decay,
summer’s discarded leisure,
winter’s stony chill coming.
What shall we sip this spring
when we walk the long gravel path
back to choice? When we count
what still can be counted:
somewhere the tea leaves real
in their rows, the luxury of Extra Sweet
cool in our throats? The seasons keep
changing. Restore what can
still be restored.