Monday, October 3, 2022

This Is What I Have Heard


This is what I have heard:

The seas will rise in a single night,
as high as apartment buildings,
and will sweep back out with everything
- armchairs, SUV's, bodies, trees -
in its voracious maw.

My sweet village will one day swim out to sea.
My shelf of books - the work of my lifetime -
with all my poems about the climate crisis
 - be warned!  I wrote fruitlessly, endlessly -
will make good reading for sharks.
It is possible the entire island might
one day disappear and the mainland
will become the new coast. (In fact,
a futurist once told me, when I lived there,
longing for the sea, that when the poles melt,
the ocean will roar through the Fraser Canyon,
and the Okanagan will become its shore.)

The time of fires and floods is at hand,
as the ancients prophesied. And still
we carry on as if we aren't walking
the fine line at the edge of a cliff,
in danger of falling. In danger of it
crumbling under us. In danger of
being swept away.

This is what I have heard:

Human nature learns everything
the hard way, and won't change
until forced to. I'd have hope
if we elected indigenous grandmothers
all over the world
to clean up this mess. Grandmothers
understand about cleaning up messes,
and how to nurture life so it can survive.

This is what I have heard:

Before the storm, all the chickens
found somewhere to hide. All the gulls
sat on the sand facing out to sea -
a clue that big winds were on their way.
A dolphin got swept in and left behind
on somebody's couch.
Many animals are moving north
to higher ground. Humans, who do not
prepare well ahead of time, cry
bitter tears at all the clean-up.
And, when the whole world
needs cleaning, how many will be left
to do the work of relearning
how to live on a finite planet
that can provide for our need,
but not our greed?

I took the first line from the poem "Rain at Night" by W.S. Merwin. For earthweal: A Lyre for a Changing Earth. The dolphin was poetic license. But I do wonder, as always, how many non-human sea and land creatures were impacted by the storm. The unseen, uncounted dead.


  1. Great poem. I'm imagining a poor dolphin stranded on a couch! What a terrible world we have created yet, as you say, the answers are there. We could change the future of the planet. It does seem harsh to think that one day our writings will wash out to sea, unheard and unread, yet I too am finding the will to keep writing harder and harder to find at present.

  2. Oh sorry - that came up as Anonymous - it's Suzanne of Mapping Uncertainty. :)

  3. Ominous..yet not outside the realm of possibility in our lifetimes. You're calling it out Sherry... how I hope decision makers can read all of these..

  4. Great use of the line from Merwin, it forms a straight line of enquiry for the poem, a way to survey the wreckage for the lyre-strings found there. I have almost no faith that homo sapiens can change its hardwiring fast enough to prevent itself and most of life from annihilation. Hope for me is as Kate Marvel put it -- making the best of that. Voting for the indigenous grandmothers. Including the gulls and dolphin and rainbow with the brutal facts of rabid storm.

  5. 'Grandmothers
    understand about cleaning up messes,
    and how to nurture life so it can survive.'

    A wise observation, Sherry. Sadly it seems to be the rich and the outspoken who gain power, to the detriment of the planet and all who live upon it.

  6. Well this had a strong sense of the Lyre about it. Spoken with the proper amount of sorrow. Grandmothers know all about grief too, if I recall correctly. I have little time for hope these days but I can hold a wish in my heart that when the floods come, this poem washes up on someone's couch, as a plantable seed for the new days.

  7. A lament for our modern times, Sherry, so full of oblivious, self-created tragedy on ever level, leaving not only the greedy but the innocent to suffer its woeful consequences, and all of us who weep and rage with protest only seem to be creating. "..good reading for sharks." let's hope that from this chaos whatever grandmothers and young warriors we have left will emerge to make a difference.

  8. I'm glad the dolphin was imagined! I'm sure a lot of fish were stranded...would hope a whale or dolphin would have been recognized, reported, and helped. They must have their ways of sensing and bracing for storms.

  9. Powerful poem - the strong repetition really works here - marching us through the consequences of unconscious action. And yes please to the grandmothers.


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