earthweal open link weekend #27

Welcome to earthweal’s open link weekend #27! Pop a cork and light a sparkler by linking a poem that best suits your own theme or mood, be it new or one of your greatest hits. Include your location in your link so we get a feel for the breadth of global reportage. And be sure to visit your fellow linkers and comment!

Open link weekend ends at midnight EST Sunday night to make room for next Monday’s weekly challenge. Sarah Connor takes up the reins this time with one titled LOOKING FOR A NEW HIERARCHY. You know will find it stimulating, fun and rewarding—poetic meat and a hoot.

Now everybody start linking!

— Brendan


A family in the flood-hit district of Assam in north-east Assam, June 29, 2020. Photo: PTI


Summer is in full swelter now, from Florida up to the Arctic. Dangerous heat indexes are forecast this weekend for the Gulf coast region of the US, with 100-degree heat across Texas and storms ratcheting across the Northern Gulf with tropical storm potential. Not hotter, though, than the Arctic circle, where a 6-month heat wave is fast melting summer ice and balding back massive tracts of permafrost. Elsewhere, southern China has seen 31 straight days of torrential rainfall, with reservoirs and dams giving out and some 15 million residents affected. Yangshuo, a tourist town known for its stunning mountain vistas, experienced a once-in-two-centuries burst of heavy rain on June 7. Flooding from heavy rainfall is also affecting the north-eastern Indian state of Assam, with 1.5 million residents in 2,000 villages affected. The flooding is hampering efforts to contain the Baghdan oil well fire which has been burning since June 9.

Though all of these events resulting from a heating climate are disturbing, the Arctic heatwave is the perhaps the most troublesome. The Arctic is warming twice as a fast as the rest of the world—much faster than scientists though it would in response to rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The high of 38 degrees Celsius (just over 100 degrees Fahrenheit) recorded on June 20 in the Siberian town of Verkhoyansk, just north of the Arctic Circle, was the highest temperature ever recorded in the Arctic, some 30 degrees F higher than previous recorded highs. If our climate had been stable, it would have been classified as 1-in-a-100,000-year event, but Arctic heating is nothing but an unproar.

On June 19, ground surface temps of 45C (113F) were recorded across the region—that’s 113F—ground temps are usually higher than air temperatures we normally see in weather analysis—but imagine that kind of heat on permafrost and sea ice. We saw that with the May 31 collapse of a Russian oil tank in Siberia due to melting permafrost, spilling some 20,000 tons of diesel fuel into the nearby Ambarnaya River. The spill was two-thirds the size of the Exxon Valdez spill, but the news was fleeting amid so many other catastrophes concurrent in our daily world.  (Like a COVID pandemic which, thanks to folks like us dum dum US citizens stuck in a spiraling first wave, is threatening to soon mount a second worldwide wave…)


siberian heat

Land surface temperatures (LST) in Siberia, June 19, 2020


Still, think of it: if global warming at 1.1 degrees C above the norm is producing this— and doing it at a speed we hadn’t expected for decades— what does that bode for our future? Current projections of staying within 2C of warming are withering fast; one analysis puts those chances now at .3 percent if Trump is defeated in November. (And if he wins re-election? .1 percent, or one in 1,000).

An Australian climate scientist still recovering from continent-engulfing wildfires earlier this year writes of an updated forecast of warming in Australia (based on 20 forecast models) of 4.5 degrees Centigrade by the end of the century, with a range between 2.7 and 6.2 degrees Centigrade. The 2 degree target is now forecast to pass around 2040. “If the new models turn out to be right, there is no way we can adapt to the catastrophic level of warming projected for a country like Australia,” he writes.

Some of our most precious ecosystems will never recover, including some of what was destroyed in Australia during our Black Summer. Gutted landscapes will struggle on, trying to regain some semblance of an equilibrium. But the truth is the destruction we have unleashed will reverberate throughout the ages.

We are witnessing the unthinkable. Facing the unimaginable.

The hard learning the United States is getting in Pandemic Essentials 101—what a failure here, especially in states like Florida where I live (10,100 new cases yesterday, a nationwide record and helping the US to set a new global record of 55,000 new cases for the day)—repeats an old lesson from my oracular blog namesake St. Oran: The way you think it is is not the way it is at all. Straight commonsense thinking doesn’t do much good when you’re playing 3D chess with the Devil. (What does that do to poetry of the heart, we have wondered.)

As an epidemiologist recently explained in a series of tweets, it isn’t the number of daily COVID tests related to test positivity rate which concerned her (the one I’ve thought refuted folks like Vice President Mike Pence’s complaint that testing is causing the pandemic), but what is swimming behind that data. “What we see in states like Florida is a sharp rise in the numbers of new cases,” she Tweeted. “It is the pace of growth that alarms me, and the fact that positivity is rising along with it. As policy hasn’t changed over the last few weeks, what stops it from rising more?” The shadow in the swarm in negative reverse is a diving peregrine falcon—how fast this COVID now spreads.

Similarly, the pace of climate change revealed in the current Arctic heatwave belies the simple linear graph of rising carbons and heat. David Wallace-Wells writes,

Making sense of climate change requires more than trying to determine where on a particular linear plot we are and where on it we are likely to be in ten years, or in fifty. It may require more profoundly revising our sense of linearity itself. In this way, global warming isn’t just scrambling our sense of geography, with Verkhonaysk, at least briefly, playing the role of Miami. It is also scrambling our sense of time. You may feel, because of the pandemic, that you are living to some degree in 1918. The arctic temperatures of the past week suggest that at least part of the world is living, simultaneously, in 2098.

Remember the Clockwork Green challenge here back in February? We tried to make sense of the asynchronous coincidental speeding wheelworks of climate change. It was dizzy stuff, and a theme which underlies news of five five-hundred year floods in Houston over the past five years or a hundred-thousand year heat event in the Arctic Circle, followed by what’s to come in a 2 or 3 or 4C hotter climate arriving faster than anyone believes (and exactly the way COVID feasts on beliefs). Wallace-Wells again:

Perhaps the most important lesson of the freakish Siberian heatwave is: However terrifying you find projections of future warming, the actual experience of living on a heated planet will be considerably more unpredictable, and disorienting.

Well, that’s what we’re here for, folks, shelter from upside-down storm and welcome to a bedraggled sense of things. Maybe what we struggle to say comes from the Earth itself. Great essay about the melt of Siberian permafrost by Heather Altfeld, “The Magical Substratum,” appearing in Earth Elegies, #73 in Bard College’s bi-annual Conjunctions series and published in 2019. (Sure wish I could find an online link, but sorry.) Daniel Fisher, a professor of paleontology and evolutionary biology at the University of Michigan, tells her,

We have translated the eco-crises in the Arctic into our own terms—terms that make sense to us, statistics of melt and temperature change, empiric projections—but these terms do not represent the animistic view of native Siberians. Our scientific terms to not capture the actual problem, which the Siberians would say is one of great disruption to the land’s spirit. The eco crisis we are experiencing involves many souls, because the land has a spirit, and if it is angry, and it can’t be appeased, then what are they supposed to do?

Altfeld reflects,

What is the point, then, between a cosmology that centers around the natural world, and one that centers around our importance in it? It is this: If the personification of an animal or a tree gives us the sense that we are all in this together, then their suffering is our suffering, their deaths are our deaths, and their souls are inextricably bound up with ours.

Things to brood over this weekend. Sarah Connor’s prompt on Monday will open wider doors for us all.

For now, I leave you with a poem by Joy Harjo, our current US poet laureate. May it, for now, suffice …


Joy Harjo

Once there were songs for everything,
Songs for planting, for growing, for harvesting,
For eating, getting drunk, falling asleep,
For sunrise, birth, mind-break, and war.
For death (those are the heaviest songs and they
Have to be pried from the earth with shovels of grief).
Now all we hear are falling-in-love songs and
Falling apart after falling in love songs.
The earth is leaning sideways
And a song is emerging from the floods
And fires. Urgent tendrils lift toward the sun.
You must be friends with silence to hear.
The songs of the guardians of silence are the most powerful—
They are the most rare.

from An American Sunrise: Poems (2019)

earthweal open link weekend #26

Welcome to earthweal’s open link weekend #26.

Link a poem using the Mr. Linky Widget (include your location) and be sure to visit your fellow linkers’ contributions and comment.

Open link weekend ends at midnight EST Sunday night to make room for the Monday’s weekly challenge.


People gather on a beach in Southend-on-Sea, England, on Wednesday, June 24. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson began easing coronavirus restrictions in May, but people are still supposed to be distancing themselves from one another. Photo: Getty Images


Days here swelter in the Plume, Saharan dust unfurled across the Atlantic Ocean. Humidity normally makes the Florida summer sky pale; clouds become oblique in the shriek of sunlight and humidity. Now this vague dusty obscurantism comes to the upper firmament. In late afternoon it’s like a blue steel lens, refracting and obliquing the build of summer storms so that they look like distant sculpture prohibited us.  Six days we’ve been without rain, which in the teeth of the rainy season translates into an impenetrable wall of heat.

Of course this miasma is token to the effulgence of local COVID-19; the USA’s leaders and citizens have both failed extraordinarily at heeding precautions against this virus. Now it swells and magnifies faster than a speeding concept. The country’s 14-day record of daily new virus counts is up more than 45 percent; in Florida, the count is exponentially even greater. No way to put this on any timely grid; infections reported today are from a picture taken two weeks ago. No way to scale it either, as we are told by our Center for Disease Control that the infection counts should be magnified tenfold to represent the actual rate. Then we are told that our common-sense figurations are useless, as it’s not the number of tests which are swelling the infection count but the rate of infection for those tested. Add summer heat and we’re quite befuddled and besotted lot.

Well, it’s a dismal American story, with Brazil and India also seeing precarious first-wave rises. Not perhaps the tale in your particular corner and if not, good for you. Us dummies will slowly learn, I pray. Meanwhile summer unfolds in the Northern Hemisphere carrying on the work of the austral high tide, with flowers in full bloom and fires raging in the Arctic. Today’s my wife’s birthday and we plan to head out for a day to celebrate, driving over to Cocoa Beach and shopping for birthday stuff. Masked and worn out, by heat and the endless ravages of the Coronavirus. My job search is stymied yet again, and my wife can’t put her father into memory care because two patients at the facility have contracted the virus and are in the hospital. The state will probably be on lockdown in another couple of weeks, so it’s here we go again.

Quite the year, this 2020. And here we are.

— Brendan

earthweal open link weekend #25

Welcome to earthweal’s open link weekend #25. Share a poem from your repertoire—new or classic—and visit your fellow linkers and comment on their work.

Open link til midnight Sunday, when the next weekly challenge, tentatively titled SUSTAINING NATURE WITH CULTURE, begins.

See you in the fray — Brendan


The Sankofa Village for the Arts drum and dance group performing during the Jubilee of Freemen Parade to celebrate Juneteenth at Point State Park last year in Pittsburgh. (Photo: Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, via Associated Press)


Now the heavy summer comes to Florida, and right when you would think the atmospheric sizzle would put the fizzle on coronavirus, new cases are leaping everywhere the Florida sun doth shine.

Our state governor protests its because of all the testing now being done, but as usual that’s a curly piece of Republican obfuscation spreading from the country’s vice president on down. In Florida, the rate of infection for testing is heading north of 10 percent now (in nearby Orange County the rate is 15%), which says coronavirus is dangerously swelling.  Welcome to the first spike we just couldn’t say goodbye fast enough to.

Many other places around—maybe yours—the world took better precautions; they shut down early and didn’t demonize wearing masks. In the US, the overall death rate is falling dramatically because hardest-hit areas like New York and New Jersey did their work. People there are just now getting back to daily life.

Where I live, you hardly see anyone wearing masks and daily life has been at full roar for weeks. Still, it’s silent and weird, this raging COVID infection overtaking the Sunshine State. Officials deny and people defy it as if science had no bearing in a tourist mecca, which apparently it doesn’t. Mickey his own corona.

Weirdest is that Florida is a retirement mecca as well, loaded to the gills with 55+ housing communities and people racing about in golf carts and nursing homes without backup generators. If there’s any place where a refusal to heed signs with that old proverbial leading with the chin, Florida deserves the knockout punch.

But that’s just our local story. COVID errancies and lunacies, griefs and heroics weave our world variously but bind us all in ways none of us much understand. Just try compiling a list of COVID dreams and you’ll see. (Last night I packed into an auditorium ahead of a hurricane, sitting first with peers at the company which eliminated my job and then moving to a sparer area where GIs on a World War II transport plane tried to keep their spirits up as they transported to the depths of war. The hurricane getting closer and closer but never quite arriving.)

Today is also Juneteenth, the celebration of the official end of slavery—two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation and three months after the end of the Civil War. (Texas was the most distant Confederate state, though it is also said that slaveholders did everything they could to conceal the news of their slaves’ freedom.) In the exceptionally racially charged atmosphere of this summer (again, US news, sorry if it doesn’t resonate in your country), the day feels like tinder. President Trump had originally scheduled a campaign rally in Tulsa today but bowed to public pressure and moved the event to Saturday. As a pair of events, the poles couldn’t be wider.

Splitting seems to be the nature of this summer, a rip-saw of reversal. (Just a few months ago, Florida’s unemployment rate was around 3 percent; in Central Florida today the rate is at 22.4.) Temperatures in the Arctic Circle are hotter now than many places in the tropics, with Siberia seeing zombie fires (fires burning undergrown all winter breaking out afresh) and fire thunderstorms in the wake of a 6 month heat wave.

Carl Jung has a psychologic term for this: enantiodromia or splitting into one’s psychic opposite. Will Black Lives Matter protestors suddenly become racists, venting on whitepeople the historic angst and hate of their fair-skinned other? And those foaming Trump-worshippers in Tulsa, will they be struck black by COVID and find themselves intubated and body-bagged while the world pays attention to other things?

We await further news …


Reginald Dwayne Betts

in the backseat of my car are my own sons,
still not yet Tamir’s age, already having heard
me warn them against playing with toy pistols,
though my rhetoric is always about what I don’t
like, not what I fear, because sometimes
I think of  Tamir Rice & shed tears, the weeping
all another insignificance, all another way to avoid
saying what should be said: the Second Amendment
is a ruthless one, the pomp & constitutional circumstance
that says my arms should be heavy with the weight
of a pistol when forced to confront death like
this: a child, a hidden toy gun, an officer that fires
before his heart beats twice. My two young sons play
in the backseat while the video of  Tamir dying
plays in my head, & for everything I do know, the thing
I don’t say is that this should not be the brick and mortar
of poetry, the moment when a black father drives
his black sons to school & the thing in the air is the death
of a black boy that the father cannot mention,
because to mention the death is to invite discussion
of  taboo: if you touch my sons the crimson
that touches the concrete must belong, at some point,
to you, the police officer who justifies the echo
of the fired pistol; taboo: the thing that says that justice
is a killer’s body mangled and disrupted by bullets
because his mind would not accept the narrative
of  your child’s dignity, of  his right to life, of  his humanity,
and the crystalline brilliance you saw when your boys first breathed;
the narrative must invite more than the children bleeding
on crisp fall days; & this is why I hate it all, the people around me,
the black people who march, the white people who cheer,
the other brown people, Latinos & Asians & all the colors of   humanity
that we erase in this American dance around death, as we
are not permitted to articulate the reasons we might yearn
to see a man die; there is so much that has to disappear
for my mind not to abandon sanity: Tamir for instance, everything
about him, even as his face, really and truly reminds me
of my own, in the last photo I took before heading off
to a cell, disappears, and all I have stomach for is blood,
and there is a part of me that wishes that it would go away,
the memories, & that I could abandon all talk of making it right
& justice. But my mind is no sieve & sanity is no elixir & I am bound
to be haunted by the strength that lets Tamir’s father,
mother, kinfolk resist the temptation to turn everything
they see into a grave & make home the series of cells
that so many of my brothers already call their tomb.

from Felon: Poems (2019)

earthweal open link weekend #24

Welcome to earthweal’s open link weekend No. 24.

Thanks all for your strong and deeply felt responses to this week’s environmental justice challenge. Your global witness confirms that humans are as badly out of balance with each other as they are with their Earth. Justice is a righting of those pans, of making measures equal, and your responses served that purpose, weighting what’s important and discarding the rest.

Speaking on the challenge of Northern Irish poets who answered in their words the tensions of their time, Seamus Heaney said redress — the act of restoring balance—was a principal aim and use of poetry:

I have been intent upon treating poetry as an answer given in terms of metre and syntax, of tone and musical trueness; an answer given also by the unpredictability of its inventions and its need to go emotionally and artistically “above the brim” beyond conventional bounds. To redress poetry in this sense is to know and celebrate it for its forcibleness as itself, as the affirming spiritual flame which W.H. Auden wanted, to be shown forth. It is to know and celebrate it not only as a matter of proffered argument and edifying content, but as a matter of angelic potential, a motion of the soul. (The Redress of Poetry, 1990)

Similarly, the work of environmental justice—both for the Earth and the people who have been exploited along with it—is much more pedestrian; it’s voting in elections and serving on committees and fighting for ordinances and regulations and seeing that wrongs are fully confessed and paid for. As members of a society, we can’t be remiss in that work, not ever. But poets have a special contribution to make, that we not lose sight of our Earthly angelic potential. Eden even in the verses such difficult work, but your hard work here shows glints and gleams of possibility in a darkening present. Earthweal’s secret motto is in the singing of the seals on a lonely moonlit island: We, too, are sons and daughters of God ….

The US stock market today (Thursday) is sharply down, with the Dow Jones currently 1,500 points south of the day’s start. For a week is that money market was deaf to the cries for justice, soaring while some global spirit sank deeper and deeper. Now it feels like the Earth’s pan—freighted with COVID and climate change—is redressing obscene wealth in the hardest way imaginable for the takers.

assam fire

Bagjhan oil well fire, Assam State, India. Stopping the leak will take four weeks after fire is doused.

And why not? Melting permafrost in the Siberian Arctic led to the collapse of an oil tank in late May, releasing 150,000 gallons of diesel oil into rivers and flowing toward the Arctic ocean and threatening a nature preserve.  An oil well in Assam state in India burst about the same time and has now caught fire, unleashing massive plumes of smoke, causing the evacuation of some 1,600 farming families and threatening a nearby nature preserve.  Greenland was hit by a heat wave earlier in the spring, with temps 40 degrees above normal and some 2 billion tons of meltwater at its height; now the heat has centered on the Siberian Arctic, where a few days ago temperatures soared to (86F).

And the American’s president’s oldest son recently hunted endangered giant sheep in Mongolia to add to his trophies. Nothing, right now, can stop him; but one can’t help but see the glint of COVID and the greater looming shadow of human extinction in the dark glassy eyes of the sheep mounted on his wall.

Every poem is a redress.

Share a poem of your own preference, new or old.

Open links taken through Sunday; be sure to visit other linkers and comment.

Sherry will take up the reins next week with a challenge on systemic racism—very topical and sorely in need of our redress.

Have a great weekend—




earthweal open link weekend #23


Welcome to earthweal’s open link weekend No. 23.

It’s been a loud week: lots of marching, protests, projectiles, pepper spray, low blows, speeches, burning cars, funerals, tear gas, posturing with Bibles, invectives, rhetorics, theories, cell phone videos, baton crunches, curfews, solidarity, despair and hope—around the world.

Is anyone else’s ears ringing?

One conclusion is that the economic buzz-saw of the pandemic has revealed the raw fault lines in market liberalism, the grievous gulf between haves and have-nots. The worst off are the most marginalized in pocket and body. In the U.S., African Americans have suffered worst from COVID-19, and young black men are arrested, beaten, die at police custody or are imprisoned at dramatically higher rates than their white peers.  Police brutality and the authoritarian regimes they protect and project are a flash-point of the split between oppressor and oppressed, and systemic racism is nowhere as deeply rooted and vastly ignored than in (again) the United States.

Our raw environment shares this divide with extractors and extracted (for the pugnacious, humanity vs. the rest of animal, mineral and vegetable existence on Earth) lining up in similar ways. Climate change similarly revealing the gulf between one and ninety-nine percent. As the human population grows toward 10 billion, the rate of vertebrate extinctions is speeding up faster and faster.

Justice is called for on both accounts, and time is short: nothing is improved in either case by waiting, kicking the can down the road or ignoring the freight of impending damage. Environmental justice may be the only way to properly address both racism and climate change. Both point to the same essential wrong which only we humans can address.

As Bill McKibben recently wrote,

… Having a racist and violent police force in your neighborhood is a lot like having a coal-fired power plant in your neighborhood. And having both? And maybe some smoke pouring in from a nearby wildfire? African-Americans are three times as likely to die from asthma as the rest of the population. “I Can’t Breathe” is the daily condition of too many people in this country. One way or another, there are a lot of knees on a lot of necks.

The job of people who care about the future—which is another way of saying the environmentalists—is to let everyone breathe easier. But that simply can’t happen without all kinds of change. Some of it looks like solar panels for rooftops, and some of it looks like radically reimagined police forces. All of it is hitched together.

“Racism, Police Violence and The Climate Are Not Separate Issues,” The New Yorker, June 4, 2020

All of it. So let’s see what sort of linkages you come up with. Every poem is a solution, a “complicate amassing harmony” as Wallace Stevens put it; let’s harness that bonding energy to a weekend of Earth justice.

Share a poem of your own preference, new or old, Tristanned or Ysouled.

Open links taken through Sunday; be sure to visit other linkers and comment.

— Brendan