Category Archives: Poetry

The sorrow we have sown

Exhausted
By forests burning
I went home
Heavy in the knowledge
Of the death spiral
We have set ourselves on.
What to do?
Go mad, cry, protest, rebel.
I made tea –
Very English –
And somehow
Found myself
On the balcony
Planting seeds,
High-blooming flowers,
Now, in August,
Hardly planting time.
Never having sowed seeds
In desperation before
I was aware
That it was
A futile gesture,
But a gesture nonetheless.
Each seed was saying
Sorry
To the scorched earth.
I was sowing sorrow,
All the while
Knowing:
Go ahead,
Plant a million seeds
A million trees
Ten million
It will never be enough
To undo the damage
The earth has suffered
In my lifetime.
Not for a thousand lifetimes.
Even if it were all to stop
Tomorrow,
Our burning and poisoning,
There will never be
Enough seeds
To repair the sorrow
We have sown.

Amazon Burning, Day 16

So here we are
Breathing in plastic particles
While the Amazon burns.
Breathe in
Breathe out.
In Sao Paulo
The daytime sky
Is darkened by smoke
From the burning forest
Over a thousand kilometres away.
Breathe in
Breathe out.
The Amazon, we have been told
Is the lungs of the planet,
Sequestering massive amounts
Of CO2,
Effectively helping
To cool the Earth.
Breathe in
Breathe out.
What happens to our world
When our lungs
In themselves, an enivronmental
Miracle,
A unique, irreplaceable
Biosphere
Have been razed to the ground,
Privatized
Given over to
The production of
Soy
And beefburgers?
Breathe in
Breathe out.
Will future generations
– If there are any –
Celebrate the victory of
The entrepreneurial spirit?
Will they rejoice at the
Great Burnings of the early
Twenty-first century?
Or will they be struggling to survive
On a planet blasted
Blighted, maimed, broken,
Stricken by runaway warning.
Will they be gasping for air,
Wishing there was some way just to
Breathe in
And
Breathe out.

Easdale

Cross the only bridge over the Atlantic
And call for the ferry
To take you to Easdale
The dark isle
Black shingle beach
Jagged rock and bladderwrack
Sheer sided, limpet pock-marked
Slate screes down to glass-top pools
Workings filled by the storm
That put an end to working
Bringing exodus and decline
And turning places of dirt and dust
Death even
Into turquoise pools
Of wonderment.
Turning Easdale into a gem
A black obsidian beauty
Otherworldly and familiar
Quintessence of all childhood
Rock-scramblings
The gurgle of the ebbing outflow
From pool to sea
The most beautiful sound
The world has to offer
In this moment

 

Only Action

We’ve left it late.

Far too late to stop
Horrendous damage from being inflicted.

Even now,
Even now that we know,
Even now that we know about the potential
Scale of the damage

And the threat that continuing
In our business-as-usual fashion
Poses to all life on earth,

Even now,
Things are still getting worse.

It has taken us a long time to know
And we’re sorry

More than sorry –
Grieving
Keening
Lamenting for all our losses
All your losses

All the losses
and grief and destruction and death
that our not-knowing
has inflicted on you
and future generations.

Our not-knowing.

For too long,
We were simply not able to conceive of the fact
That our rulers,
Governments,
So-called captains of so-called industry
Would be prepared
In their ruling
In their dominion
In their dictatorships
To drive the planet
This planet
Our only shared home
To the brink of destruction
And beyond.

We couldn’t conceive it
Wouldn’t entertain it
Didn’t want to believe it.

And now
The passenger pigeons of our not-knowing
Are calling us home to roost.

Our ignorance
Is an expensive ignorance.
One that may still cost us the earth.

Our ignorance
Is a painful ignorance,
For us,
And you and you and you.

Ever since the first of us said out loud
This cannot go on
Said
This is killing the earth,
This
CO2
Oil
Gas
Methane
Pollution
Warming
Acidification
Deforestation
Drought
Treating living things as expendable commodities
Treating the natural world as a resource to be plundered
All of this
Is killing the earth
And all life on it.

Ever since those first words
Were spoken
We thought
That the saying of it would be enough
That the knowing of it
Would be enough.

For how could anyone know
And allow it –
want it even –
To continue?

But we were wrong.

Our not-knowing
Was a deadly waste of time.

The past thirty years  –
Thirty years of wasted time
Wasted lives
Thirty years of extinctions and degradations
Have taught us
That knowing it is not enough.

Only action is enough.

The rich and powerful
Have known all along  –
Exxon knew
Shell knew
BP knew
The military knew
Governments knew.

They knew
And they buried the truth.
Bury it still.

That knowledge was as nothing
Compared with their power
Their privilege
Their money
Their business as usual.

And all the time
We still had the hope
That someone somewhere
In power
Would see reason
See the light of day
Feel compassion
Do something.

And now
At this late hour
When the earth stands abused
When we can contemplate
Without fear of exaggeration
Her death
And ours
At this late hour
We are finally disabused
Of our foolish belief
That someone else
Will do this for us.

At this late hour
Already an hour of destruction
We finally know
That only action is enough

At this late hour
We finally know
That our only hope
Lies in ourselves, and in others like us:
To put our bodies on the line
To put our bodies into the streets
To stop the machines
Of filthy industry
To stop the machines
Of filthy power.

Only action is enough.

At this late hour
We must rebel
We cannot know the outcome
But we are already
Paying the price
Of our ignorance.

At this late hour
We know
that the price of inactivity
Is death.

At this late hour
We know
That in the face
Of extinction
We choose life.
That in the face of
Governments,
And oil, and industry,
Only action is enough.
Only action – action now –
Can ever be enough.

Paradise

Paradise burned to the ground last week
But they say they can rebuild it.
They say
We were negligent
And shouldn’t have left stuff
Lying around
To catch fire.

It’s been a long hot summer
Here in Paradise
Hotter and dryer
Than any of us can remember
And we remember
A lot.

Things have been strange
Here in Paradise
For a long time now
Strange and getting stranger.
There have been signs
And portents
And the older ones among us
Have been saying:
“This doesn’t look good”.

And now
It doesn’t look good.
Doesn’t look good at all.

Looks more like
Hell on Earth
To tell the truth.

Paradise is gone
And some of us are gone too.
And those that are still here
Are grieving
More than we can bear.

And you know
What hurts most
More than the fire
Or the deaths
Or anything
Is the idea
The stupid
Gasoline-selling idea
That the unique, fragile,
Interwoven web of life
That was Paradise
Can somehow
Be reconstructed,
As if it wasn’t
Irreplaceable.

As if we won’t be grieving
For the rest
Of our lives.

So when someone comes
To tell us
What we did wrong
And how great our
Future will be,
Don’t be surprised
If we turn our backs
And walk away.

Don’t be surprised
If we can never believe
A word they say
Again.

Paradise burned to the ground last week.
And now we’re ash.
Our lives are ash.
Our world is ash.
We’re cast out
Cast adrift.
But nobody’s going anywhere
Because
We’re broke,
Broken now,
And
There’s nowhere left to go.