earthweal open link weekend #140


Greetings, and welcome to open link weekend #140 at earthweal. Link a favorite poem and then visit your fellow linkers to comment.

The link forum is open until midnight Sunday EST when the next weekly challenge rolls out with our guest contributor Lindi-Ann Hewitt Coleman.

Happy linking!


earthweal weekly challenge: WILD SOULS


by Sherry Marr

In the roar and cacophony of our cities and byways, it is easy to forget there are other beings — wild souls — in the beyond-human realm, living their parallel lives in the natural world, as best they can, near or far from our noisy existence. In miles of forest, in northern ice and tundra, at the South Pole, in wetlands, prairie grasslands, in the tropics and in the ocean, the song of the earth sings out, steady, thrumming – thrilling – alive, unheard, until we enter the forest’s peace, or pace along the shore to the song of the sea. In places as far as they can manage from humanity’s ever-encroaching roar, all the wild souls are living their unseen lives. Wolves pad elusively along forest trails, bears pluck fat blackberries in the meadow, deer stand on their hind legs reaching for low-hanging apples.

I am reading about these countless beings, whose lives matter as much to them as ours do to us, in Wild Souls ~ Freedom and Flourishing In the Non-Human World, by Emma Marris. It always amazes me, fills me with wonder, that in the midst of the devastation we have caused on this increasingly finite planet, life does continue to grow and flourish in spite of us.

She writes,

In the early years of my career, I found myself questioning…Was there any true wilderness left?… I concluded that conservation must focus on protecting the ability of ecosystems to adapt and change in a changing world, rather than trying to stop or reverse all change.

…As a conservationist, the premise that we had no ethical obligation to the animals seemed hard to maintain…What about animals whose lives are shaped by us unintentionally by climate change, land development, and species we have moved around?…Could humans possibly have ethical obligations to all the untold millions of animals on Earth, to every sparrow and ground squirrel and city rat and white-tailed deer?

For me, the answer to that question is easy. Yes, we do. As the fox in The Little Prince by  Antoine de Saint Exupery said so perfectly, “You are responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”



Marris continues,

Our ethical obligations to wild animals, she continues, are often presented as being straightforward: we should simply leave them alone and protect their habitat. The thing is, there is no more ‘out there’. The whole earth is like a larger version of [endangered] Kaua’i, with its flora and fauna from all over the planet, legacies of human management going back hundreds of years, and rare animals barely hanging on to existence at the fringes, in ecosystems that are warmer and weirder than they once were. Humans have dramatically changed the entire world.

We’ve touched many animal species so deeply with our wholesale reshaping of planet Earth that we have likely altered their evolutionary trajectories…If we could better understand our ethical obligations to our non-human kin, it could significantly improve the way we make decisions in conservation and wildlife management and in urban planning, veterinary science, pest control or agriculture.

We can never know precisely what it is like to inhabit the consciousness of an animal of another species…but studies show non-human animals are smart, emotional and even kind. Their inner lives are rich…If they can suffer, if they can remember, if they can love, if they can choose, then surely we cannot justify treating them like mere things. No one seriously doubts any more that our fellow mammals are sentient.

I am unsure why it has taken the scientific community so long to “discover” what we who love animals have always known, through simple observation of animals we have loved, who have loved us. It is as frustrating to me as the delayed recognition of the escalating climate crisis has been, while hurricanes, floods and fires of biblical proportions are erupting wildly all around us. Ten years from now, someone will put out a report about it, no doubt, as the planet sizzles. (Now, now, try not to be bitter, I remind myself pointlessly.)

She continues,

Climate change is altering the ranges, annual cycles, and behavior of untold numbers of species. Relationships between new and native species are knitting together novel ecosystems around the world. Animals are moving towards the poles and upward in elevation as the climate warms. Not all animals move, though. Researchers seem to be uncovering more ability to adapt in place than expected, which is encouraging.

As for the ‘wild’ animals in our cities and suburbs, they have thoroughly adapted to our world. Animals that communicate by sound, including birds, frogs and toads, have shifted the pitch of their calls to be heard above the noise of cities and traffic. Crows in Sendai, Japan, wait for traffic lights to turn red, put walnuts in front of the tires of idling cars, then pick the meat out of the nuts once the cars have cracked their shells. Rats, pigeons, house sparrows and other commensal organisms have so fully adapted to human beings that they now depend on humanity.



There is much we can do to assist them: planting nature gardens to attract wildlife, growing plants that feed bees and hummingbirds, putting out water in hot months (and frozen ones), leaving fallen leaves on the ground in fall to aid butterflies and garden insects, not mowing the wild grasses, dandelions and wildflowers along the roadway. And of course, putting out seed and suet for winter birds.

Marris continues,

Our concepts of “nature” and “wilderness” sadly limit the solutions that we can imagine. Perhaps because of the bluntly extractive tendencies of their ancestors, it remains difficult for people with primarily European ancestry to wrap their minds around the idea of a positive, mutually beneficial relationship with other species. Thus they can see only two conceptual options: destruction of nature by humans or separation of humans from nature. To save nature, we must exile ourselves from it – like latter-day Adams and Eves leaving the garden after despoiling it.

As a collective, we humans have clearly taken more than our fair share of space, water and other resources. But we don’t fix that by exiling ourselves from the rest of Earth’s species and building a wall between us. We fix that through repairing the systems by which we make our living, by learning – or re-learning – better, positive relationships with the species with which we share Earth.

To love the “wild” is to love the non-human in all its many millions of forms, to love the ways that plants and animals live, the choices they make, the beautiful patterns they weave…To love “nature” is to love landscapes that remind us of our place as just one of the millions of species on the planet.

Marris travelled to Australia to explore a movement called Compassionate Conservation, dating back to a 2010 symposium hosted by the Born Free Foundation, the legacy of Elsa, the lion whose story is told in Born Free. She writes,

So far, the core work of compassionate conservationists has been to critique traditional conservation for being as domineering and human-centric as the rapacious exploitation it seeks to supplant. From [their] perspective, resource extraction and traditional conservation seek to control the non-human world to suit human values – no matter what the cost. This critique has included identifying alternative narratives, win-win approaches where species are saved but humans don’t do any killing.

Israeli ecologist Arian Wallach, working in Australia, believes killing in the name of conservation is never acceptable… “I encountered what I now call the dark side of conservation,” Wallach said. “I thought conservation was pure good.”

The dilemma seems to be that there are totally opposing outlooks among ecologists. One group believes in assisting the survival of native animals, and eliminating (by culling or poisoning) non-native species. The other, as above, doesn’t believe in killing at all, and feels various species can adapt to living together, and will work things out themselves. I agree with the latter view, as that is the way nature worked before humans began meddling with it.

Wallach asks: “What if there might be a third way. What if we could change animals to save them?”

And they lost me again. A group called Arid Recovery has a 30,000 acre reserve in southern Australia where they are trying to train native animals to run from predators, with the goal of preventing extinction. They hope that non-native predators will leave enough of the native species to survive. They expect this process will take a hundred years – and this is just one experiment in one relatively small compound. It still sounds like humans managing creatures, to me. And we don’t have a hundred years to curb extinctions. Nature’s current imbalance has been caused by humans – we are the ones who need to learn how to live in balance.

It seems to me the obvious help we can give the wild ones is to preserve, protect and restore what habitat they have left, and stop destroying it all. Marris asks, “Is this kind of manipulation of a wild animal acceptable when extinction looms?”

Some feel strongly that action and intervention is needed, and say if it works, animals in the future will no longer be conservation-reliant. We live in hope.

She sums up her observations and discoveries in a chapter titled “How to Be a Good Human to the Non-Human World”:

We need to do a better job sharing with non-human animals…Ultimately, we already know how to take up less space. What is lacking is the will. We can learn a lot from how Indigenous human societies on islands managed their environment before the global economy tied these places into mainland supply chains.

We must also tackle climate change…any person worried about living an ethical life should figure out an effective and sustainable way to fight for climate justice. Make room for other species and fight for climate justice. Doing those two things will do so much good in the world. And they will help not just people and other animals but trillions of other living things as well.

Make room for others; stop climate change; fight for justice; be compassionate; be humble; admit you don’t know everything. Make homes for snakes. Sit quietly in the light of the last hour before dusk, the shadows of the junipers long and the colors bent blue. Listen to the swallows call as they swoop above you snatching midges from the air, and know we are not alone on Earth.

And I would add to that: Voice your concerns about the climate crisis and the extinction of species – loudly – to all your elected officials, at every level, who should be much more alarmed than they seem to be about the accelerating climate breakdown and who are still stuck in the corporate mindset where oil is their favourite cash cow.

For your challenge: Let’s speak to the wild souls, let them know we hear their cries. You might wish to speak in their voice. Whatever arises from this prompt, I anticipate reading with pleasure. My heart is always with the critters.




For inspiration, I include a few poems from the book of poems titled Kind, by Gretchen Primack:



This is the press of the earth. One star hanging
there, honking like a goose. The lake
a smudge of black juice, the hill a draped
pancake. Frogs singing, sharp
and gutty.

Night! Clean air, clear water, five
baby mink in a pile, snoring.
Overwhelm can be dug from sludge
below dock, on either side fruits slung
over branches, glued to their seeds.
Here in the slurry live the things
I consider, here in the hills. What do people
think of? What do they think of me
in my carings?

Ripples lunch on each other, heavenly
body lights flicker, too cool for moths.
I don’t want to hurt things.
The fine brown eye of an animal,
the broad slick leaf of a wing.
I’d like to be gentle here.
I want to be worthy of you, lovely
ground, bury my face in your tired
broken bread.



I was also a child.
And also had one.
And another a year after.
And another.
And could not touch

even one.

Had I been born
into a kind world,
my life would have been
mine, not a stranger’s,
as long as my body wanted life.

Had I been born
to a kind world,
child, this milk would have been
yours. No one would have filled
your lungs with loss.

Put your head where your kind
is born to be
but is never allowed: at my flank.
The great spill of me. Smell me
from your bent neck. Child.



I wake up & it breaks my heart.
Two rods of light by the blinds to trap
in my fists & keen for.
All these horses & fish & goats trap my broken
heart. Like you, I was born. Like horses and others I keen
for. Not the soul, which never was.
All these songs wind my heart like a cat’s
cradle. Each one mourns & howls
for every animal alive and hardly so.
Each one holds someone born for love
or commerce.

I wake up & find the light, the keening mares & lambs
& notes pinched along these hurt strings.
Like you, I tell everyone with a heart,
I was born.
Like you, the bloodless say,
I kill anyway.
I wake up, see, & it breaks my heart.

— © Gretchen Primack         

earthweal weekly challenge: A LYRE FOR A CHANGING EARTH


Greetings all,

I am exceedingly fortunate and happy to be writing and uploading this post after Hurricane Ian barreled through Florida. As it turns out, the storm passed about 25 miles to the south of my home, so while we had tons of wind and rain, we didn’t get flooded, lose power or suffer structural damage. But it was close. Just ten miles away, rainfall totals doubled from our 7 inches and many more lost power. It was sheer luck of the draw that we managed to avoid the storm’s middle bad impacts.

Ian’s path through Florida. My little town is the blue dot above the path of the storm.


With Gulf waters getting so warm now in the hurricane season, coastal living is becoming increasingly dangerous, if not impossible. Hurricane Ian, the fourth most powerful storm to strike the United States, just proved that again in my state’s southwest coast between Fort Myers and Sanibel Island. The coastal dreams of tens of thousands of residents were mowed by 150 mph winds (just shy of Category 5 strength, the highest intensity on the Saffir-Simpson Scale) and a storm surge that was twice my height in some places.


There’s much anxiety as a storm approaches because their path is so fickle. Ian had been projected to hit the Big Bend area of Florida, about 350 miles north of Fort Myers; but a descending cool front kept pushing the storm slowly further south of the state, narrowly missing the overdeveloped and extremely storm-prone Tampa Bay. This drives weather newscasters nuts as their dire predictions continued to evolve and change location.

But where prediction might have been dicey about storm’s path, the general effect once it did make landfall was horrendously predictable. Multimillion-dollar seaside castles were decimated along with thousands of cheap manufactured homes wedged into tiny vulnerable tracts. So far, more than three dozen have been found dead in the wreckage and thousands more are still trapped in their homes.

On Thursday afternoon, the storm having crossed the state and pushed off from the coast near Cape Canaveral (headed toward South Carolina), I worked in my yard out back of the house collecting yard debris while the wind heaved and sawed overhead, the rain finished and gusts beginning to eddy from shriek to roar. I was out again over the next two days, clearing more debris, getting patio furniture out of the garage and back up on the upper deck and mowing the front yard. The sky slowly cleared and it was surprisingly cool for Florida with temps in the low 70s (21-23 C). A gorgeous fall day — who would know such violence would have so recently passed?

These storms are still rare for my part of Florida — it’s been 18 years since Charley carved a similar path — but a monster smashes some part of the Gulf Coast about every year now — Harvey in Texas, Katrina and Ida in Louisiana and Mississippi, Michael in the panhandle of Florida. That storm (in 2018) brewed up from a tropical wave to the very top of the Cat 5 scale in just 36 hours, smashing into Mexico Beach with such fury it scoured the tourist town clean — nothing remained standing. My wife and visited there three years later last winter  and towns up there were still rebuilding, with many buildings still roofless apparitions. The surrounding forest was flattened for fifty miles. Bigger storms also lurk up the Atlantic coast, like Superstorm Sandy, delivering a Halloween wallop with a windfield that stretched from Canada to Kentucky.

My wife and I live 50 miles inland from Florida’s coast; storms weaken to Cat 1 strength at best when they arrive here. But it is truly terrifying to lay in bed at night listening to everything heave and thrash outside, wondering if the windows will hold and the big oaks out back won’t crashing down on us with the next gust. We’ve talked about moving someplace less vulnerable to these storms, but nowhere has been convincing enough for us. (The devils we know here are much smaller than all the ones we don’t yet know elsewhere.) Florida may become unlivable within 20 or 30 years as temperatures continue to rise and the storms grow even bigger and more fierce; one way or another, we’ll be gone by then.

Globally, Florida’s present hurricane woes are just one of a long list of climate-related catastrophes increasing in number and duration — record heat and drought and wildfires in the Northern Hemisphere now descending to the lower latitudes in the seasonal shift, along with inundating rains and migrants on the move. The surprisingly raw experience of climate change is becoming the bitter repetition of more troubling events as more carbon churn the sky’s arteries and the dazed firmaments of land and sea react with flood and fire.

Here at earthweal, living as we do spread across the global north and south, our collective experience doesn’t always concur with events like rampant hurricanes (thank you all for your concern), but most of us tune into such news and s experience a disturbing feeling that we’re all stuck on the same globe afflicted by these events. Wildfire and hurricane register very different effects, but dread of their approaching season is very similar. Fear of losing one’s home I’m sure is universal, as is anger at having to go about one’s daily routines without power, internet, cell phone service and Amazon Prime. And no matter what our personal footprint, the sense of shame at humanity for allowing such an atmospheric catastrophe to occur echoes back and back and back as grand ecosystems dwindle and fade.

Our poetry cannot help but carry all this forward into the worsening future of this Earth — to grieve, of course, but also to try and help us live the best we can under such conditions. To love and plant and walk by the sea, to feel soft rain on our faces as some light alters in the distance.

All that’s the stuff of hope. I mean, why else should write another word? Kate Marvel reflected as such in her essay “Thinking About Climate on a Dark, Dismal Morning” (Scientific American, Dec. 25, 2018):

… It’s true that we’re not going to get utopia. The planet has already warmed by one degree Celsius. Most of the coral reefs are going to die, and many of the glaciers will melt. Climate change is here, leaving grubby human fingerprints on parched, burned, flooded and melted landscapes. But we don’t have to settle for dystopia. It’s going to be worse, but it doesn’t have to be bleak. We can have a “topia,” an ordinary future where we go about ordinary lives in cities on stilts, missing what we’ve lost but looking forward to better things. There is light in the future that doesn’t come from burning.

Hope, said Emily Dickinson, is the thing with feathers. I have never understood this poem. Hope does not keep me warm, nor is it always there. Hope is not comfortable. It demands things, drains you, makes you sad and anxious. Hope is the knowledge that we can prevent bad things, and the realization that we might choose not to.

Hope, then, as “topia,” where we grieve what’s lost but look for better things. Hope so constructed is a curious instrument, and one we must somehow learn to play better as the century progresses.

For this challenge, attune to one or more of the world’s changing voices in a poem. Tell us about a memorable storm or fire or other natural calamity you witnessed, as both external and internal event. Or describe the empty space left by an animal lifeform now extinct, like the Chinese river dolphin or ivory-billed woodpecker: how does that absence affect the time’s melodies? What new symphonic textures are found in lengthening seasons and strange new currents? How do the mind’s colors change, how does the heart sing, where do the ghosts gather and how does the instrument sound using a profoundly changing bow? And where is the hope? How would you address these insights for time, as in a note left on a table for one’s children’s or rolled in a tight scroll and squeezed into a bottle to set on the tide.

The sound is grievous but the message is hope: Out of what wood and gut could such a lyre be fashioned?

— Brendan



Patricia Smith

I was birthed restless and elsewhere

gut dragging and bulging with ball lightning, slush,
broke through with branches, steel

I was bitch-monikered, hipped, I hefted
a whip rain, a swirling sheet of grit.

Scraping toward the first of you, hungering for wood, walls,
unturned skin. With shifting and frantic mouth, I loudly loved
the slow bones

of elders, fools, and willows.

— from Blood Dazzler (2008)



Maxine Kumin

Lake Buena Vista, Florida, June 16, 1987

Death claimed the last pure dusky seaside sparrow
today, whose coastal range was narrow,
as narrow as its two-part buzzy song.
From hummocks lost to Cape Canaveral
this mouselike skulker in the matted grass,
a six-inch bird, plain brown, once thousands strong,
sang toodle-raeeee ahzee, ending on a trill
before the air gave way to rocket blasts.

It laid its dull white eggs (brown specked) in small
neat cups of grass on plots of pickleweed,
bulrushes, or salt hay. It dined
on caterpillars, beetles, ticks, the seeds
of sedges. Unremarkable
the life it led with others of its kind.

Tomorrow we can put it on a stamp,
a first-day cover with Key Largo rat,
Schaus swallowtail, Florida swamp
crocodile, and fading cotton mouse.
How simply symbols replace habitat!
The tower frames at Aerospace
quiver in the flush of another shot
where, once indigenous, the dusky sparrow
soared trilling twenty feet above its burrow.



Chris Otremba

This was a heron, and the oddly effortless but dense wedge
its body made across the sky, and more odd for being unfamiliar,
landing on the puddled roof of the nearby frame shop,

the second day of the flood receding. Then, there was the crew
of red-vented bulbuls (which took me days of search terms
to identify — “black-crested bird with red breast,” “bird with red chest,”

“bird red stomach,” “bird” & “red” “& “Houston” — when they invaded
last summer’s ripened fig tree), the black-crested birds that came stowed
full of potential — mutated germs in the seedpods’ husks — in cargo holds

of boats docked in the ship channel, before leaching into the city
like benzene jumping pipes for the gulf. I mean this flood now abated,
yet still as it will be fifty, a hundred years from now, and you, gathered

on what shore you may have found there, you in this echo
I might have detected in pulses under the water’s depth,
and — measuring them — have found myself also, does it help

I only wanted so I could have the need? What I denied myself had a border
as elastic as risen dough, the kind that requires a little heat and time
and teams of hungry organisms drunk and belching their conversions.

You are the life in you, like we here are the life in us. I tried spending
the better part of an hour last week casually dredging the net
for a record of the moment the microbiome takes up residence

with our bodies. To complain about the flood as only this flood
and then rue today’s temperature is only sticking my hand outside
to get an estimate on the weather. I can report it is uncomfortable,

the air hovering the edges of volcanic breath. If there is a lesson
on how not to worry, it’s that you’re not stuck only being one thing,
the multitudes in me and the multitudes in you. When ice-melt

exposes the bottle brought aboard the ship suspended on its journey,
whoever finds it might carry gratefully across their lips
these agents of the loop now circling through us.

— from Levee (2019)



Carolyn Forché

The lights across the water are the waking city.
The water shimmers with imaginary fish.
Not far from here lie the bones of conifers
washed from the sea and piled by wind.
Some mornings I walk upon them,
bone to bone, as far as the lighthouse.
A strange beetle has eaten most of the trees.
It may have come here on the ships playing
music in the harbor, or it was always here, a winged
jewel, but in the past was kept still by the cold
of a winter that no longer comes.
There is an owl living in the firs behind us, but he is white,
meant to be mistaken for snow burdening a bough.
They say he is the only owl remaining. I hear him at night
listening for the last of the mice and asking who of no other owl.

From In The Lateness of the World (2020)



W.S. Merwin

This is what I have heard

at last the wind in December
lashing the old trees with rain
unseen rain racing along the tiles
under the moon
wind rising and falling
wind with many clouds
trees in the night wind

after an age of leaves and feathers
someone dead
thought of this mountain as money
and cut the trees
that were here in the wind
in the rain at night
it is hard to say it
but they cut the sacred ‘ohias then
the sacred koas then
the sandalwood and the halas
holding aloft their green fires
and somebody dead turned cattle loose
among the stumps until killing time

but the trees have risen one more time
and the night wind makes them sound
like the sea that is yet unknown
the black clouds race over the moon
the rain is falling on the last place