Tuesday, August 23, 2022



Buffalo at Standing Rock
They came in support of the warriors

When I come back, I'll be like
the herd of buffalo arriving
at Standing Rock, the natural world
rising up to stand with the water protecters
who were trying to save the river.

Water is life! the warriors said, praying
under a hail of rubber bullets.
They stood in the water in winter
and were not cold, because the river
was with them, against the militarized police
and the black snake that would bring death
to their people.

When I come back, I will be like
the white Spirit Bear, swimming from
island to island in search of food.
Already, I am growing too weak to swim.
What will still be here, when I come back?

I will come back like the unsettled spirits
at Ninstints in Haida Gwaii. When you step
on shore even now, you can hear
the keening and wailing of those
in the Spirit World, the First People
who died in distress from smallpox
brought by the colonial invaders,
only the first of their burnt offerings.

When I come back, I will rise
from a small unmarked grave,
where, long ago, another child
was made to bury me,
under the heartless gaze
of the black robes.
When I come back, may no child
ever have to live under a gaze
that cold.

Now I watch the skinny black bear
wandering, hungry, across the village green;
the thin grey wolf, loping along the shore
in search of the salmon that are no more.
There are dead whales on the beach,
stomachs full of plastic and styrofoam.
Raven and Heron and Eagle -
all of their eyes are looking at me
from the tops of trees: asking
what have you done to the world
once so abundant?

When I come back, if I am human,
I will wear a cloak of shame and guilt.
If I am of the beyond-human realm,
I will be wary, hoping the Two-Leggeds
have either learned how to live with the earth
or have disappeared in the floods and fires,
the pandemics and calamities of our times.

When I come back, will the world
have stopped burning? Or will it
be ash and stagnant water, from which,
eons from now, a small green sprout
may one day hopefully appear?

I wrote this last summer and shared it at earthweal. Am sharing it again for Brendan's challenge: River, Gone, about the disappearing rivers of the world, which should awaken consternation in everyone as to what lies ahead. Very soon water will become more important than oil, and more scarce.


  1. This is a wonderful poem, Sherry. I hope when you come back the world will be a kinder and greener place!

  2. There is hope yet at the end of your poem.. dystopia may mark the beginning of a new world.

  3. I wonder if when Eliot wrote "old men ought to be explorers" he was echoing the far tradition of preparing for the flowing journey which circles back to life in some form again. That's the rich, nourishing river here, washing away the pollution and blessing the deep and good life. Amen.

  4. I think the two legged legends will disappear into all the calamities you have mentioned...nature will restore itself without us and in my faith each of us has to account for what we have done to this earth and each other at the last judgement

  5. This is so beautiful Sherry. We must hold on to that small green sprout.

  6. More important than oil, exactly! And no doubt those who got rich from oil will try to sell it back to us for an extortionate price

  7. Water, unlike coal and oil, can be distilled by anyone who's thirsty. Of course, finding unpolluted water for bathing and cleaning will become difficult if we keep on overpopulating and polluting...


Thank you so much for visiting. I appreciate it and will return your visit soon.