Welcome to Earthweal’s open link weekend. Our verse hootenanny revs up here every Friday afternoon at 4 PM EST. Share a poem, short or long, new or old.
Click on the Mr. Linky link which follows to add your link. Add your location after your name in the link so we know where on Earth you post from.
Be sure to visit your fellow poets and comment. Discussion as what on Earth your fellows are writing about is a renewable source; treat it as such.
Links will be accepted through Sunday night, followed by a Monday challenge focused on some aspect of our changing Earth and lasting til Friday.
The next weekly challenge will be SOLASTALGIA (Homesick in a Changed World).
Your fruitful and communal conversation is also welcome in the comments section.
Yesterday the weather in Florida turned changeful—unseasonably warm for February (hitting a high of 87) and the wind picking up with surprising force. A big front strolled across the US Midwest, muscular and foreboding with winter snow, hail and tornadoes; as it made its way toward the Southeast of which Florida is a part, fulsome Gulf heat and moisture pumped up the southern tail of the front into a nasty line of storms. They mowed over our house last night around midnight in a fury of wind and lightning and thunder and rain. Fortunately there were no twisters as the whipping tails of these fronts can produce, like the pack of twisters on Groundhoug Day 2007 which raked Central Florida, lifting mobile homes skyward and killing 23, or the one which concentrated just on this town in 1993, damaging some 2,000 trees, many of them stately old oaks planted when this town was founded a century ago.
Six hours after the front roared through—as I now work on this post—the winds are still battering the neighborhood, weaving and whipping and roaring in the trees. These sorts of events aren’t all that unusual in Florida, but there is an added edge, a louder volume, a greater velocity to it.
They say everything is big in Texas, but in the 21st century ACE, climate change is making everything everywhere bigger.
And fast. Many areas around the world are dealing with cascading impacts of climate change. Take Australia, where areas ravaged by monster wildfires are rolling out further effects with fish kills from ash runoff and floods from torrential rains. Traditional and modern practices of fire control are seeming less likely to help with high and higher heat, burning on such scale and fire seasons extended further through the year.
Scientists now observe that climate change is causing the oceans to speed up. Winds are blowing harder, speeding surface ocean currents. One noticeable effect in the Pacific Ocean is the creation of hot spots which have been devastating to ocean life. These ocean changes were surprising to the scientists, they hadn’t expected to see such results for another 50 years. It’s similar to the acceleration of other predictions of earth impacts from climate change.
The big heat and fires are coming sooner, glaciers are melting faster, hurricane seasons are ramping bigger and faster every year (last year’s Hurricane Dorian would have been declared a Category 6 storm had such a category existed. The other day Antarctica recorded its warmest temperature on record—64 degrees F. The poles are melting at a record pace.
Is it weird to you that events on a geologic scale are irrupting so quickly into our already-speeding human time? Watching a glacier melt away in time-lapse is a dislocating experience. But observing dozens of events unfolding on a global scale in daily human time is somewhat like watching the seven days at the Creation in a biblical flip-book.
Speed used to be a novel human invention (think of those speed racing trials in the Bonneville Salt Flats), but now the world is outpacing us. This is especially worrying in the spread of novel coronavirus, which started with an infected snake or a bat on sale in an outdoor wild game market in Wuhan, China, leapt onto a peddler and fanned out from there. Even with the most stringent state controls, in a month we’re anxiously calculating the chances of global pandemic.
The carrier? A fleet-footed humanity who travels at will and can sail or fly anywhere in the world.
And we thought the Australian bushfire horror was big enough … Nothing is big which can’t be overwhelmed by something else in the Anthropocene.
Introduced by human travel and trade, invasive species threaten ecosystems all over the world, Hogs were brought to South Florida in 1539 by the Spanish explorer DeSoto. Over time they roamed, went feral, and now root through agricultural areas like rototillers, causing some $800 million in agricultural damage every year. Lionfish are beautiful additions to the tropical aquarium, but somehow they got into the Atlantic Ocean around 1985 (flushed down a toilet, probably) and have become voracious reapers of Florida reef ecologies. Burmese Pythons make strange pets (but then, consider their keeper); escaped or abandoned ones made it into the Florida Everglades where they have flourished, resulting in mammoth declines of small mammals like raccoons and white-tailed deer. Florida newspapers routinely publish photos of state-appointed hunters holding up trophy pythons approaching 17 feet long, but what goes unreported is how the Everglades ecosystem is changing under the rule of this new apex predator—more turtles, apparently (raccoons who favored their eggs are gone), and different plants growing because there are fewer mammals to dispense seeds through their feces. Who knows.
Truly though, humanity is most invasive species of all, covering the globe like kudzu and shaping it for purely human use. We’ve hunted megafauna to extinction, overfished the ocean, polluted the skies with fossil fuel exhaust, ruined landscapes with chemical farming and covered the rest with asphalt. Even near space is getting to be a mess with drifting pieces of debris from our 50 years of space exploration.
In 200 years we’ve managed to set the global clock back 50 millions years. That’s a strange accomplishment, engineering a way into geologic time, re-shaping our Earth so much that our near- and long-term climate future is now in our hands. Will our fate be that of hothouse Venus? Some of that depends on how hard and fast humanity tips the balance in the decades to come. For now—for us, here—we have a chance to emotionally and aesthetically calibrate that speed from our various lives and locales, that heart and art may perceive what may be too fast for human eyes.
In my morning reading I’ve been re-reading Wendell Berry’s collected poems as well as foraging in a very different volume, Reginald Dwayne Betts’ Felon. Berry has so much to say about damage and renewal—deep, abiding stuff. Betts has something equally important to say about damage and renewal. Reginald, who is African-American, served time in prison many years ago for a robbery he committed while still a teen. After his release he went to Yale to study law, became a public defender and kept writing poems.
Slavery was an invasive thought introduced to the New World with a vengeance, and as many as 60 million Africans died during their indentured labor. Four hundred years later its poisoned rootstock still finds ways to darken the American mind, in shadowy ways we hardly can acknowledge. As Michelle Alexander wrote her 2010 book The New Jim Crow, mass incarceration of black men using draconian drug laws passed in the 1980s has kept generations of black America in jail. Civil rights may have been granted in ’60s, but the shackles are still there.
Betts is deeply aware of how both his crime and the gulag of punishment he was thrown into has shaped his identity—the appellation of “felon” affects and afflicts every good thing to follow—and his message here, I think, is that renewal is neither easy or sure, and the product which survives may be unlike any poetry we have before known:
Sometimes you need a dark astringent to see clearly. This, from Betts’ “Essay on Re-Entry” from the collection:
…Nothing can be denied. Not the gun
that delivered you to that place where
you witnessed the images that won’t
let you go. Catfish learning to subtract,
his eyes a heroin-slurred mess;
Blue-Black doing backflips in state boots,
the D.C. kid that killed his cellmate.
Jesus. Barely older than you, he
had on one of the white undershirts
made by other men in prison, boxers, socks
that slouched, shackles gripping his shins.
Damn near naked. Life waiting.
Outside your cell, you could see them wheel
the dead man down the way. The pistol
you pressed against a stranger’s temple
gave you that early morning & now,
boxes checked have become your North Star,
fillip, catalyst to despair. Death
by prison stretch. Tell me. What name for
this thing that haunts, this thing we become.
From Felon (2019)
I don’t know why this pairs so well with a favorite Wendell Berry poem of mine, but it does:
TO KNOW THE DARK
To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings
and is travelled by dark feet and dark wings.
from Farming: A Hand Book
Maybe we have to grow different eyes to see what’s really going on these days. This thing that haunts, this thing we become. A novel coronavirus, a hot Antarctic, roaring winds outside my window today—: It all comes at us fast. Better write something down before tomorrow.
Hard winds still blowing outside the window. When it gets light I need to collect the tarp which blew off the garage roof and pick up debris. We didn’t have to fire up the generator I bought last summer for the increasing likelihood of occasions like this, which is good. But the year is early.
I love your essays, Brendan. Love Wendell Berry, too. At writers’ group this week, our local poet laureate wondered if humanity has morphed into some new, darker version of itself. We dont know how else other supposedly human beings can commit some of the atrocities they do. (My friend had read a poem, between sobs, about the treatment of a pig in a factory “farm”, hung alive on a hook into its flesh, in its innards gutted out.As if it is a thing, not a sentient being.) Looking at the eyes of some of the people currently in power, and their ghoulish smiles, they do seem another breed, utterly devoid of compassion.
This morning, in thankful antidote, the young First Nations woman I study with spoke of a time, long back, “in the supernatural age, when everything was one, and everything could communicate: people, plants, animals”. She said we have forgotten this, have become disconnected from the land; that we are meant to walk on it in dignity and respect, honour and humility. It was good to hear her. The photo of the makeshift hospital is sobering. I LOVE the theme Solastalgia, and look forward to reading what that theme brings up on Monday. We are expecting a major windstorm here tonight, which usually involves loss of power. But I will make the rounds as I am able.
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Thanks Sherry — As I pondered the theme of Renewal this week, I kept wondering if there is a balance or tipping point between renewed wonder and renewed despair … Life is a defiance of celestial tides, joyful, riotous and brief; entropy hauls such moments away into the infinite stillness of drifting dark. Which force is greater? I wonder … It reminds me of a tale I once heard in AA, some anthropologist is interviewing an old Native American chief who says that there is a bright dog and a dark dog constantly at war in his breast, the one urging him toward goodness and love, the other to seflishness and anger. Anthropologist asks the chief which dog wins; chief thinks a moment then replies, the one I feed the most. What is scary about social media is that it is best at feeding the dark dog, and that is a huge danger for the world. Walking the world “with dignity and respect, honour and humility” calls on us to sing the wild lands … and be careful what we indulge. Always great to see you here, hope the winds weren’t too towering.
You are so right about the internet feeding the dark dog……..hopefully this forum adds some light for those who seek it. Today it is glorious out, West Coast’s finest. Sigh. My brain holds this light, and the knowledge of the dark in other places, at the same time, a hard thing to hold. Yet thank heaven for the light.
Your essays are always a fascinating read. And so are all the amazing responses. Both the photos posted here simply make us aware of what humans are capable of. Wisdom is not their forte, perhaps. In the midst of all this when we find someone whom any one would think of as Gaia living in our time in human form one’s bound to be hopeful. I am sharing a link, many of you may have already watched : https://youtu.be/U-7O-fIYSsY
I am a huge fan of Bryce Langston who travels this globe in search of people’s living style preferably a downsized, sustainable living.
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Thanks Sumana, always a pleasure to see you here and thanks for the thumbs up on the post. And thanks for sharing the Bryce Langston link. The woman in Wales living small & off the grid is a great tonic for any notion that one can live close to nature in suburbia — it’s mostly a fantasy where I live, though I’ve always treasured it in the writings of those like you. My father left an international job based in New York City to live on 20 acres of Pennsylvania forest, creating over 40 years a harmonium of stone and wood and flesh. One has to get rooted a long time for that to happen …. You also join the great anonymity of nature, which isn’t a bad thing.
Another great essay Brendan. I really treasure these writings of yours. They are thoughtful, erudite and so well written.
Thanks Kim, much appreciated. And thanks for linking in the forum. Your poem is very close to the theme of earthweal — a combination of reverence and dread. The whole is both.
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Thank you. The poem was written last spring, amid my growing dread at the reduction in local birds. It tells the tale of a walk in the fields near our house with my husband. Strangely, I have heard more local birdsong this past January, than I did last spring! English seasons are all mixed up now.
Sumana, some of my friends live like this. My closest friend, Chris, lives in a floathouse up the Sound……they have solar and a battery so she has limited internet access. She lives in UTTER PEACE, and her footprint on the earth is so small. She is conscientious about even the small things. There is a forest here where young people have made all manner of tiny hobbit dwellings. One friend had a yurt for a time high on a cliff, looking above the trees across to the ocean. Occasionally swans would fly over. Sifgh. My heart has always been drawn to alternative lifestyles (and people) but I got trapped in having to earn a living and never fully escaped. One day we will be forced to live in this way by the breakdown in unsustainable systems. If the temperature remains livable.
Brendan, re Kim’s comment, I see a book of these essays, with the poem you wrote for each accompanying it. (I am such a slave-driver, lol.)
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I wonder what we have been doing (and what little piece of change we have all been responsible for) … maybe with all our force of invention, we could actually do something to change things for the better. Somehow I sense that we are all paralyzed by the threats we have caused so we are standing there like deer captured in the headlights of the trains we have built.
BTW, it’s late and bedtime for me. I will get back to read tomorrow.
I belong to a small writers’ group which we created for our own support and nurture as distinct from all the mentoring we do of other groups, i.e. very experienced writers. At yesterday’s meeting the three oldest members turned up first, and with some initial hesitation shared that we had all been writing very dark stuff as a result of recent events in Australia. We had all been through some fear that it was ‘too confrontational’ so it was reassuring to share our poems with each other and realise we had been covering much the same ground in our own ways, even to creating Dystopian scenarios. Then we confessed how infuriated we get with the many who suggest we should all be ‘positive’ in the face of these times. We agreed that for us there is no help but to write what is there within us to be written, and that it is right and proper now to ‘bear witness’. (‘Witness to the dissolution,’ one said.)
And yet, I am cognisant, too, of not feeding the energy of negativity. I think of the advice of one of my great teachers, who said that it’s no good trying to stuff a positive affirmation on top of a negative one; the subconscious isn’t fooled for a moment. It’s best to bring the negative thoughts out into the light of day and deal with them, then create the positivity. Well, I have certainly been doing the first part of that, in my recent poetry! I am even getting sick of it myself! So last night I tried to find something sweeter to write of, and that seemed to necessitate a nostalgic look at my far past. Well guess what, it seems to fit the coming Weekly Prompt here. Synchronicity or what? However, I seldom have time to join in that one (and even usually have to come late-ish to the weekend ones) so here it is.
Although I can’t participate as often as I’d like, it’s great to have this forum, Brendan. Couldn’t have been more timely.
Without being presumptuous, I am experiencing the same thing, Rosemary. The shadow of the looming climate catastrophe has leaked so far into my writing that it seems like I can write about little else, and with too many dark and gloomy colors in the palette. And its a global phenomenon. Writing “positively” feels like survival, like breathing air. After a few weeks of this forum, it was clear that an alternation was needed, looking at the changing earth from both lines of vision. In life, a door closes, another opens; the cycle changes and renews. The troubling thing is that cycles are being disrupted so fast, rhythm may have a strange weird face for a long time. I named this forum ‘earthweal” because “weal” has two senses, both as supperating welt and growing community. Our wounds are our wombs. The experiment is to see how they might come together, to grieve and grow. Monday’s Solastalgia challenge will be a form of earth grief; the following weekly challenge on Feb.17 will be led by Sherry Marr on the theme of Finding Hope. A door closes, another opens. So appreciate your coming round here and sharing your verse and experience.
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Well, to we old poets who met here yesterday, the exhortations to be positive have seemed like (as you recently remarked) playing music as the Titanic sinks – spurious at the very least. But what you advocate here is not that. I like ‘Our wounds are our wombs.’
My most recent Friday article at Poets and Storytellers United featured Yeats’s ‘Second Coming’, all too apt. Yet, thinking aloud there on how long ago that was written and how often since it has seemed apposite, I found myself reflecting that not only have there been other times in history when it seemed the world must be ending, in fact we none of us do or can know what will happen, because none of us will live long enough to see the more distant outcomes. We only know that so far not only the planet but the human race as survived many apparent apocalypses. I don’t know if that counts as hope, but at least the entertainment of a possibility.
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Thanks Rosemary — There’s an adage I embrace: Things are never as bad as you fear, nor as good as you hope. The First and Second World Wars of the previous century were truly apocalyptic and humanity recovered (dunno how well the environment fared, though). Climate change will roll out for centuries, and we have a hard time imagining life in 20 years. Like most poets, my writing was devoid of any talk of climate change 5 years ago. I think we can count on each other to steady the boat as one of us (usually a different one every day) gets up and starts screaming in a panic. Distant outcomes do belong to the future, we just have to mind present outcomes as best we can.
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Sherry, I totally agree with you that one day we Will be forced to live in this way. Mother nature spares none.
I’m raiding my back catalogue, again. I’m finding this exploration hard on a personal level. It’s much easier to bury one’s head, and concentrate on the beauty of the world – and I do strongly believe there is a place for that! – if we don’t celebrate what we have, how do we value it? What leads us to protect it?
What’s interesting is how long worrying thoughts about the way the world is being damaged have been popping up. This isn’t a new thing for me, it’s been there for a long time. I will continue to raid my back catalogue!
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You are absolutely right, Sarah — we would be terribly remiss without singing the beauty of the world, and I hope there is plenty of space for that here. Open link weekends are free-for-alls so go for whatever you like, and I’m trying to start alternating challenges so that there’s a hard spin and a soft rinse. Whatever you bring here is welcome, follow your heart.
Everyone is referring to your posts as an essay and I guess in many ways that is what they truly have become. Words to enlighten the world in many ways. I thought about the renewal prompt and found myself struggling. I feel renewal is a spiritual things for me and spring is the perfect time to feel the buds of renewal in my limbs.
I am sharing something I wrote for another prompt but, I feel it fits the spirit of earthweal. The plight of the polar bears is worrisome but, so many are still in denial of ice caps melting and how it changes our climate.
Friday, I drove to work in fog, the temperature was hovering 40 degrees. This then turned to heavy rain, sleet, ice
and several inches of snow. The drive home was treacherous. January was filled with above normal temperatures and February promises to be a mixed bag of precipitation.
I know we are all hurting about our changing world but, I feel we must also look at the positive aspects of the planet. There is so much beauty around us that we must not forget that in the journey. I feel balance is hard to find these days as bad news seems to be the norm.
Wishing all a happy peaceful Sunday!
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Thanks for the kind words. Dunno if these writes have any effect on anything, but it’s good to air out some of the related themes … And yes, balance is so critical moving forward. We’ll be counting on you for that!
I enjoy your essays from Florida and keeping up with others. I love Wendell Berry and the poem you referenced is my favorite. The sight of those hospital beds is chilling.
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What I love about forums like this is you find out so much about your peers! Honestly I don’t think I have ever run into someone who has read “To Know the Dark” by Wendell Berry, and here I find someone else who counts it as a favorite. Glad you find earthweal an embracing place.
Yesterday the temperature in Antarctica was 68 degrees. That is very scary. I just spoke with my lifelong friend, who has devoted her life to the cause of clean energy. She is involved with Extinction Rebellion, which is spearheading many blockades in B.C. in support of the Wet’suwet’en people as they oppose the ramming of the pipeline through their traditional territories.Guess who are getting arrested? We march tomorrow here in Tofino. Anyway my friend said we might spend 1/3 of our time describing the problem, 1/3 talking about solutions and the other third telling a new story – how we want the world to be. That really speaks to me. She may come check us out!!!! She has some books out about clean energy, cutting edge stuff. She has a more hopeful outlook than I do, though she admits our changes may come in response to cataclysmic events.
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We get these climate-news shockers about every day now, ti seems. The dawning awareness ramps up into a flooding one. Extinction Rebellion has made some effective strides, at least in Great Britain, toward changing public policy. Clean Energy would make a great challenge down the road, don’t you think?