This poem won't
awaken the global mind so everyone
is on the same page,
addressing the climate crisis,
the pandemic, systemic racism,
police brutality, the plight of refugees,
oppressive regimes, hatred, discord and war.
But it acknowledges that
we now have travelled far;
we know enough to finally see
the world we've made,
and the terrible price we've paid,
and that it needs us to make
an evolutionary leap
from our too-long sleep,
through the portal of Awakening.
Armed with integrity, compassion, insight,
we can chart the way
towards a more just day.
This poem won't
convince those who feel masks
threaten their personal freedom
that it might save their life (and mine)
in these crazy times.
It won't change a racist's heart,
a white supremacist's brain,
or teach them how
to sing a new refrain.
But it will send into the universe
one spark, which is all
the hope I have to give today;
may it make its way
into some human hearts
and there catch flame.
In wanting peace and life,
we are all so much the same.
We long for Peace and Hope and Love -
together, let us joyfully
sing their names.
Ha, found a second and slightly more hopeful poem for earthweal, where Brendan challenges poets to find poems in these extraordinary times. Not always an easy task.
When the earth and I were young,
I heard it singing, joyous and free,
in the warblings of birds,
the heartbeat of ancient trees,
the wild call of the wolf,
in eagle-cries at dawn.
When I listen for it now,
the song is nearly gone.
My heart goes quiet with the grief
of Gaia's struggle to survive
our relentless encroachment
into every hidden corner
of Mother Earth, giving nothing,
taking everything of worth.
Bravely, as the seas and tundra warm,
she still hums her ageless melody,
birds still build their nests in hopes
their young will live their season out;
animals and humans are born,
following the primal urge,
summer follows winter,
in an endless surge, leaves unfurl,
everything alive is striving to survive
in this wild and peopled world.
How does a poet find a poem
in all the struggle? How find the words
midst the grief of all the dying?
My heart goes silent as I watch
a world in pain and crying.
Hope replaced by melancholy,
I Become the Observer,
not quite resigned to
the error of our human folly.
In all that feels so wrong,
it is too dark to find a song.
The lilt and flow
that my words used to know
goes still, Mother Earth's weeping
the new song, echoed in my heart;
I hear lamenting everywhere
for Brendan at earthweal: the challenge of a poet writing sufficiently unto the moment. The enormity of what is happening is such that my words no longer lilt and swirl, but plod, grief-stricken and aghast. I struggle to put my pain into words at how completely wrong everything is. How badly we need leaders of vision to lead us out of this mess. How unfortunate we are with the ones we have now.
It may be that when we no longer know what to do we have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go we have come to our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.
I first read these words when my health had completely failed; I didn't know what was wrong and no doctor could tell me. I had been under terrible stress at work for a few years, and I was a Type A personality, who cared a great deal about my work and my responsibilities, in a workplace that had grown unhealthy. My blood pressure started going off the charts, I had fuzzy thinking. (After being the multi-tasker of all time, if the phone rang when I was sharpening a pencil, I didnt know what to do.) I began to make mistakes and find stressful the things I had excelled at. I would get dizzy, almost toppling over in my office. At home, I had a few falls. My legs when walking would turn to sand and collapse beneath me. I was exhausted beyond belief.
My boss was the first to suspect I had chronic fatigue. I didn't want to believe it. The insurance company declined a series of applications for disability, and began a dance of sending me to their doctors to refute the findings of my doctors. All exhausting, all stressful, when I was at my lowest ebb.
They kept sending me back, to totter and flail around my office some more. Then I finally got sent to an internal specialist who, my doctor told me, was a bit unconventional. By now, unconventional was just what I needed, as conventional medicine had misdiagnosed me as depressed, not depressed, "nothing wrong with me", and menopausal. (Oh, the sting!)
Inside the entry, on the bulletin board, was the poem from Wendell Berry. I no longer knew what to do or where to go. A new journey was beginning. I felt peace come over me, as I read these wise words.
The doctor asked me, "Why are you here?"
I said, "I want to know what's wrong with me." I told him about the depressed/not depressed diagnoses, and how I did not feel depressed, but went to a counsellor in case I was without knowing it, and how the counsellor said I wasn't depressed, just exhausted. The doctor smiled. I told him I loved my job but was not functioning.
It took him less than five minutes to test my pressure points and say "You definitely have chronic fatigue. And fibromyalgia."
The insurance company still sent me back to work "to prove" that I truly could not do it. I phoned the doctor and he said I had already proven that. He wrote them a blistering letter, listing all that he had found in my tests and history, which included Guillain -Barre syndrome in my past. This letter turned the tide for me.
They considered my case over several months, and I was eventually approved for long term disability. But they had fought me so long, with no income coming in, that I had to sell my trailer and move away from Tofino (where the rental situation has been terrible for the thirty years of my history with it, and is even worse now).
It was such a huge loss. Pup and I mourned. We mourned for years. We spent the intervening years being a Grandma in Port Alberni, thankfully most of them out in the country, surrounded by trees, and availing ourselves of the many trails and wild places.
Eventually, my soul learned to sing again, in the last place on earth I would have chosen to live. That was the task the universe had set me. That of the impeded stream; the real journey of the soul: to be happy when what you most love has been lost.
I used to spout lofty phrases: "the only thing that is certain is change", for example. I thought learning to let go was the lesson, and that I was doing well with it. Until covid. I never dreamed I would have to let go of so much - of everything. I could never have fathomed a time when walking down the street was risky, when the unthinking ease of shopping for groceries would be a dilemma.
Now uncertainty is everywhere, from the moment I open my eyes. I do an inventory: still here, that's good. I go to the basement of the building to put a load of laundry in, not daring to touch the railing on the stairs, bumping light switches with my elbow, washing hands on return to my apartment. Dare I turn on the news? Let's get the tea ready first. Fortified, I click the remote. What new horror has happened since yesterday? For, every day, there is a new horror.
In the midst of a seething, spreading, killer pandemic, there are marches for an end to racism, protesting police killing the people they are meant to serve, in honour of the most recent deaths, more shootings happening even as we march for the fallen.
The orange man, his face looking most unhappy, keeps talking talking talking, "sound and fury signifying nothing", as the world turns and burns.
I need wine to watch the evening news, and it takes extra sweetener in my coffee to face the morning, but on we go.
I have had plenty of practice learning to stand steady in the storm. I feel the old tired tree of my being supporting me. But she is weary. So tired. While we are waiting for the transformation of consciousness, it looks like the world is falling apart. Will the virus ever end? Will the marching peoples' voices ever be heard? Will life ever make sense? Will someone come to lead us back to civility and decency and make America kind again?
This morning my stellar jays arrive on my balcony. For them, life is simple; the finding of food, the feathering of nests, the soaring of skies. But it is uncertain, too, in times when food cannot be found, when the heavens open and pummel them on their dripping branches, when their eggs or babies are eaten by predators.
For today, the only day I have: a fortifying cup of tea, the news, perhaps, if the Muse is kind, a poem. Then a walk into town, for this is what the living do: we carry on.
*Uncertainty soup is a title I borrowed from Laurie Wagner of Wild Writing. Apt for these times.
This video feels like a requiem to me. Driving through this feels like going through a graveyard.
The clearcuts make their patchy way
Half the mountain has been sheared off
at Kennedy Hill
to make the road to Tofino
wider for cars and trucks,
and all the germy tourists
Heading through the provincial "park",
the forest on both sides of the road
are gouged by hungry bulldozers,
to make a $51 million dollar
path for bicycles,
fine in theory, though at terrific cost;
but they are cutting
four times wider than the path will be.
Stumps tip over, huge roots
pointing at the sky -
as if the wisdom teeth of the planet
are being pulled.
Such culture as we have knows
only one way forward: cut everything down,
pave the way for the dominant species
and their cars,
even during a climate crisis,
when we need every tree we've got,
and a pandemic, when we will soon
need every penny.
The Tla-o-qui-aht elders watch,
wrinkled faces impassive, eyes concerned,
their polite voices unheeded
when they speak of Mother Earth's lungs,
the dying salmon, the polluted streams.
Watching their home be laid waste,
the home they have tended for millennia
with such care and grace,
they silently close their communities;
keep the madness and the virus out.
When it all goes to shit, it will be
these same folk who will help us learn
how to survive in the toughest of times,
eat what's local, share what's left.
Protect what survives.
The colonial culture of destruction
has wrought horrors on Mother Earth.
Her hillsides bleed and weep;
my heart bleeds and weeps with her.
I reject the culture of destruction
that is mine; admire the culture
of the people of the earth,
their reverence for life;
I share their aching hearts,
the knowing that we mamalthni*
have gotten it
Weren't we beautiful back then,
with our long shining curls
and our pretty dresses?
We wore crisp white gloves
and wide-brimmed hats to church,
and checked out the other girls' dresses
to see whose was the finest.
I had a white dress with green polka dots,
and my sailor hat had ribbons down the back.
I looked out from under its brim
with eyes innocent of all
that would come to be; how much life
could hurt once I was
in the flow of it; a river, unstoppable,
me flailing in its rapids,
till I was finally
little girls with shining tresses, draped in pretty dresses new, flowers in grandma's garden no more beautiful than you.
When I want desperately
to save the whole world
and all of its suffering
animals and people,
but I can't,
I go into the wildwood,
where the yew tree drips soft rain
onto the ferns below,
all standing at attention,
faces upturned gratefully,
It is difficult to care so much
about all that is broken, unjust,
full of pain, where there should be
joy and thriving,
equity and promise.
How can I tell Lunabella,
with her eyes so full of dreams,
who has never known anything but joy,
that the world is dangerous,
and one day will hurt her, cloud her
luminous eyes with tears?
"You are wise and brave,"
I will say, instead, "and your dreams
will take you journeying."
I will tell her, "Listen for
the singing birds within the forest.
Place your hand on the trunk
of Grandfather Cedar;
feel his heartbeat.
Bathe under the smile
of Grandmother Moon.
When the world feels prickly,
go into the forest, and
allow the nature spirits,
the trees and the wild ones
to fill you with peace."
When I want so desperately
to save the world and all its
suffering ones, but I can't,
I walk by the sea,
where the only sound
is the song of the waves,
roaring and mighty,
beating in time with my heart.
My footsteps on the sand,
weighted by the earth grief I carry,
wash away behind me,
as I turn my face towards
those better tomorrows
that must emerge
from all of this sorrow
for the sake of the children.
for Chantel Moore, shot five times by a policeman making a "wellness" check. The House of Commons was presented with a bill yesterday to address systemic racism in the RCMP. One MP abstained, blocking the bill, which was supported by all the others.
Sometimes darkness is a friend.
We curl up in it, shut out the world,
safe in our peaceful isolation.
We dream, we dream,
as, underground, in dark earth,
blind seeds find their way above ground
and grow towards the light.
Our spirits are like that,
always looking up,
seeking that rainbow in the sky,
more light, more light,
trusting in better days,
our better natures,
refusing to give up the hope
that we can rise to being
all we are meant to be,
as a species, together.
Valerie Kaur begs us
to look with eyes of love
at the gorgeous diversity
with which this earth is flowered
She asks, "what if this is our great transition?"
(the one I have long awaited).
She says, "what if this is not
the darkness of the tomb
but the darkness of the womb?"
She speaks of revolutionary love,
asks us to hear the stories of those
we find most difficult to love,
to look for that common thread of humanity
within us all, tear down man-made
invisible walls, and see what is left:
you and me - human beings,
each hurting, each struggling,
each trying to find his way.
Of those most damaged, she says,
we don't forget. The forgiveness,
she explains, is to let our own souls
Sometimes darkness is a friend.
We hide away.
Sometimes, in the darkness,
a new way forward is born.
I extend my heart and my hand,
in the sunshine lighting up
this darkest of times.
We have always been
two souls, journeying.
We are still
two souls journeying.
When we march together,
when we share our pain
and our stories together,
I watch the black edges
of fear and pain shrivel up,
see Hope seeding itself
in our hearts, shining forth
in our eyes.
This darkest of times may be
our time of transition.
Not the darkness of the tomb
but the darkness of the womb,
birthing a whole new way of being
together, in this world.
Grandfather Cedar, Hanging Garden Tree,
so many ancient beings,
each one home to
a diversity of life,
each one a universe all its own.
I stood on the road to save you
I will stand there
if they come for you
Those hours on the road
burned in my heart like fire;
passion, fierce, like a mother bear's roar
protecting all she loves.
I have grown old,
and the loving has been sweet.
And sweet the mist
of seaspray on my face,
smell of seaweed and salal;
the delight of sand dollars in the sand,
the wonder of tidepools
full of starfish and anemone.
How my heart exults
as the waves, like white-maned horses,
gallop in to shore.
Love for your wild beauty never
stops singing inside me. I carry it
within, like a gleaming treasure,
a song of love, reminding me
to breathe in the fullness
of this moment, now,
for none of this is ours to keep.
We are all, always,
only passing through.
As the world turns burnished gold,
fading soft to starlight,
and its coloured remnants streak
across the evening sky,
I look to your mountaintops,
purpling at the edge of the sea.
I am bound here by your beauty;
held fast by the song of the sea,
uttering a constant prayer
for all you've gifted me.
for my prompt at earthweal: to write a love song to Mother Earth. As I am fortunate to live in some of the most spectacular landscape on the planet, (and trust me, I know how lucky I am!) , I have written many love songs to this place. But managed to steal some earlier lines and add to them to create this new poem. Smiles.
I am heading out to a rally in Tofino to protest the shooting of a 26 year old First Nations woman from our community, shot to death in her apartment by a policeman in the east when he was making a "wellness" check. Sending an armed man in to check on a young woman who was already scared and feeling threatened was not the best call. She was holding a knife, obviously terrified. (She had told a friend that someone was harrassing her; she may have thought it was that person at the door.) Instead of talking, trying to de-escalate the situation, or simply backing out of her space, and calling for a woman officer, the policeman fired five times, killing her. She had just moved to the east to be with her five year old daughter, who is now motherless.
In Canada, we have racism across the board. But in my opinion, those who have felt its lash and oppression the deepest and the longest are our First Nations communities, some of whom havent even had clean water or the basics needed for life for decades. Their experience with the police is very different from a white person's, and this is just not right.
I am starting to wish I wasnt a news junkie. In my lifetime i have seen a lot, but this endless day after day horror is more than a person can reasonably bear. I have some hope now that people everywhere are rising for change. We need it.
"Did you see that girl's ring?"
I heard a passing girl say to her friend.
The sun had caught my diamond;
it shone as bright and hopeful
as my unsuspecting dreams.
I felt proud. It was 1966,
and I had been chosen.
In 1972, I took that ring
and its wedding band
to the pawn shop.
The proprietor's eyes gleamed.
He saw I knew nothing
about money and worth.
He said, "Forty bucks."
I took it. Forty bucks would buy
three bags of groceries
for my kids.
Forty bucks: the price of peace,
Here I am this morning, like every morning, fingers poised over the keys, cup of tea on my left. Out my window: a very gentle rain, more like mist, my plants standing up tall, drinking gratefully. Behind them, old growth, some tall and straight, others bent and leaning, a buffer.
The village is busier now as the first pandemic tourists arrive in a confusion of masks / no masks, distancing / no distancing, making us all nervous. I have trouble leaving my house for very long; the courage of travelling amazes me. Is it courage or denial? Or entitlement?
In the bigger world, capitalism continues gobbling everything, while bears are so hungry they climb to the tops of trees to steal eggs from eagles' nests; polar bears drown swimming miles in search of food; cougars wander through the village, hungry, lacking habitat; glaciers melt; wildfires burn; humans die from a virus that attacks the blood vessels and inner organs, unlike anything we've ever seen, and terrifying.
In the midst of climate crisis, a pandemic, and a general unraveling, racist police are killing people, in daylight, on camera, unashamed, and citizens across the world are rising up. At last, we rise, after three and a half years of racist rhetoric which emboldened the dark hearts to come out from under their rocks.
Here I am, dear earth. As always, my comfort is in you, my gratitude is for you, your beauty is always here, and generous, you offer your cycles and seasons no matter how badly humans are mistreating you. You humble me. I feel guilt and grief at your distress that we have caused. I weep for the animals, for us and for the mess we've made.
"Mother Earth has enough for our need,"
the medicine man says,
"but not our greed."
My words dried up for a time. Each week, the times are hard, then something happens to make them harder, until it is one long stream of terrible news and hard existences.
Then the policeman held his knee on George Floyd's neck for eight minutes 43 seconds; another officer's knee was on his back. "I can't breathe," he pleaded. The arrogance of the policeman's face as he held his knee in place, on George's neck, while bystanders yelled, "you're going to kill him", I don't think I will ever forget. George died before our eyes, on our tv screens, a father, a son, a brother - an African American man.
All four policemen are now charged with murder, as they should be.
I spent last weekend in silence, indoors, and am only emerging now from the latest instance, among so many, of police brutality towards the African American community.
This time, the protest marches did not stop. They spread around the world, we other countries appalled at what has happened to the America we once admired. The president, as could be expected (since these protests are the culmination of his three and a half year reign of racism, division and tyranny) fanned the flames. "When the looting starts, the shooting starts," tough talk from a bully. Who had people teargassed and clubbed out of his way so he could stand in front of a church holding up a Bible, for a photo opp.
He could not be more unfit for the position he holds.
I was surprised the Bible didnt burst into flames in his hands. His eyes are devil eyes - cold and dead. I wonder if he has so much hair to hide the horns. His wife has the most unhappy face I have ever seen.
There were verified reports of organized neo nazi groups burning and causing damage, in an effort to discredit the peaceful protests. trump's endless tweets fanned the flames.
I felt hope when Barak Obama came on tv to encourage young people to take this as a moment of transformation, to use this momentum to keep moving forward. All of the civil rights leaders I am listening to on the news are talking the same way - time for change. Time for justice.
At George Floyd's funeral today, civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton told about a protest in the past when he was confronted by a white person and told "N**ger, go home." He said at this protest, he felt someone tugging on his coat. He turned to see an eleven year old white girl looking at him, and he braced himself for what she might say.
"No justice, no peace," she said, and raised her fist. When he told this at the funeral, I think we all know something has changed this time. Enough is enough.
People have been marching all over the world. Yes, racism is everywhere. We all have to deal with it in our own communities. Barak Obama said change can be made at local levels, that we can make our voices heard to our elected officials at every level. It does have an effect; I see it in my own town.
This instance of police brutality, on the heels of so many other instances, was so blatant and so arrogant, it was a turning point. The hate speech we have been listening to for over three years has had the effect of empowering racists to be much bolder. It is happening on a smaller scale in Canada, increasingly since the USA has been in such turmoil. It gives permission and emboldens the dark hearts among us. It must stop. We are so much better than this, as a race, the human race, when we open our hearts and come together, as we do in every disaster. The disaster of American politics under trump has hopefully brought us together; so many white people marching everywhere; the policemen who laid down their shields and took a knee in front of the protesters - those were the police who got great responses.
One person at the top needs to go and all his cohorts with him. We need sane and reasonable voices of integrity to begin to address all the harm that has been done. I worry about the far right who are now out in such great numbers, should the next election not please them.
One day at a time. The way forward is with open hearts, open ears, and open hands. George Floyd's six year old daughter said "My daddy changed the world." I hope that maybe he has.
There's a hungry bear in the forest;
tummy rumbling, she gives a low growl.
Her cub follows behind her,
Up the tree she goes;
her cub climbing too.
She is eating something,
possibly eggs from the eagles' nest.
The eagles are distraught.
She has to be a very hungry bear
to climb to the top of a tree
for a snack.
Two-leggeds have devoured so much,
in our spiritual poverty,
that the wild ones are starving.
Sharing with earthweal's open link.
This is amazing footage taken here on Vancouver Island. The woman who took it said no eggs were eaten. But I don't know what else the bear could have been eating up there except eggs. Sad for the bear, the cub, and the eagles, all struggling to survive in our too-crowded world, food sources drying up for the creatures and, one day, likely, for Two-leggeds too.
"This moment is an opportunity for transformation and change in our society." Barak Obama
After the days of pain,
the balm of a positive presence
on my screen,
offers, as he always did,
a way forward.
The difference this time
is that more people
from all races across the spectrum
are marching, are saying
"Enough is enough".
They are marching for justice,
and demanding change.
Perhaps this is the moment
we have been awaiting,
the time when our consciousness
expands, in unison,
to demand a more just path.
"No peace without justice," the placards say. A young man looks into the camera: "You've gotta have a dream, but you have to put that dream to work."
A note of hope, of action,
of what is possible - a voice of reason
rising, like the sweet song of a meadowlark
wafting across the nation
upon the winds of change.
for Earthweal: What Comes Next. The country is hungry for hope, for the voice of reason, for leadership, for justice. Mr. Obama spoke of how change happens at the local level; that we can approach our civic governments to press for justice. Our votes count too. More now than ever before,
as hopefully has been made clear to the majority of people these last few weeks and months.
What comes next?
One would hope societal change,
a rising of heart and hope
unless she watches the news,
and loses what little promise
she can find.
What comes next?
A knee lifted off the necks
of the people,
a corporate stranglehold
loosened from the throat
of Mother Earth,
an election that deposes
a mad tyrant and brings us
some ability to build a world
where each being has worth?
What comes next is the long hot summer,
when wildfires roar through forests
and wild animals flee.
What comes next depends most
on the choices and actions
of you and me.