earthweal open link weekend #11

Welcome to Open Link Weekend #11 at earthweal.

Post a poem in whatever theme or mood that suits you. Share something new from your creel of winds, or a greatest hit from your true and blue lists.

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 Monday’s weekly challenge. March 16 will be (duh) PANDEMIC. I’m very interested to read how minds from around the world and grappling for words for this vapor of a changing Earth.

But for now—pull up a stool and sing us a song of whatever!




If there’s anything we need right now in this weird, shouting, overbright, panicky moment of a rapidly unfolding pandemic, it’s medicine songs—voices of assurance from far and wide, deep and old.

In his book The Spell of the Sensuous, David Abram points out that the role of the traditional healer—the so-called medicine man—was not primarily to heal humans, but rather to keep balance with the wild which surrounds and sustains every village:

The traditional or tribal shaman … acts as an intermediary between the human community and the larger ecological field, ensuring that there is an appropriate flow of nourishment, not just from the landscape of the human inhabitants, but from the human community back to the local earth. By his constant rituals, trances, ecstasies and “journeys,” he ensures that the relation between human society and the larger society of beings is balanced and reciprocal, and that the village never takes more from the living land than it returns to it … The sorcerer derives her ability to cure ailments from her more continuous practice of “healing” or balancing the community’s relation to the surrounding land. (7)

If we would address our virus-stricken new reality—a global change dissembling and crumbling normal routines right before our eyes—we must first try to redress our own disruption of the natural order. (Coronovirus ain’t nothin’, compared to the human stain!) We should inhabit tenors and tones which  correct the imbalances wrought of climate change. Let us pray for the healing of pangolin spirits, poached almost to extinction for game markets and bad medicine. May we rebuild a bridge to green recognitions and assurances. Giving voice to the Earth, we balm our afflictions.

Who knows—maybe our quarantines will help turn our gaze to the lushness of our back yards and the wilderness beyond.

I mean, what else are we gonna do?



William Stafford

The least little sound sets the coyotes walking,
walking the edge of our comfortable earth.
We look inward, but all of them
are looking toward us as they walk the earth.

We need to let animals loose in our houses,
the wolf to escape with a pan in his teeth,
and streams of animals toward the horizon
racing with something silent in each mouth.

For all we have taken into our keeping
and polished with our hands belongs to a truth
greater than ours, in the animals’ keeping.
Coyotes are circling around our truth.

weekly challenge: RENEWAL

Fireweed is a native plant that’s found throughout the temperate northern hemisphere including some areas in the boreal forests. It earned its name because this plant is the first colonizer in the soil after forest fires.


Welcome to earthweal’s fifth weekly poetry challenge. We have covered some difficult themes—fire, ghosts, water, animals. Today we switch gears somewhat and focus on Renewal: How is your world opening new doors?

In these themed prompts, poets are asked to submit a poem with local perspectives on global events and / or illustrate it through the lens of your artistic expression and development. The weekly forum launches first thing Monday (EST) and remains open until Friday afternoon. Feel free to contribute multiple times if it magnifies the theme.

Friday night we launch an open link weekend where poets are invited to contribute more widely.

If RENEWAL is all you need to start working on your poem, Mr Linky follows. A write on the theme follows.



My job was eliminated by my company this past week, and for the first time in 40 years I’m unemployed. I saw it coming and have a parachute of sorts for the time being—we’ll be fine. I bring it up here because what I’m going through personally has a lot to do with this week’s theme of Renewal.

Having reached the end of one career in the collapsing newspaper industry, I’m starting over. I have a chance to take stock and look at what I want to do with the rest of my life. It’s possible I can retire (though I would like to keep working). I can get involved in things locally I couldn’t when I was a full time commuting worker drone—volunteer, or maybe run for the seat for my district on city council. Some things I have to let go of—that daily New York Times, and a favorite AA meeting in Orlando—but then I won’t be forced to continue the guilty necessity of consuming so much fossil fuel for a 250-mile weekly commute.

Still, I feel like one self has been burned to the ground. Fire is a natural occurrence in many forest ecosystems; it clears out old and overgrown vegetation and recycles nutrients back into the soil. Old life goes away, new life returns. What’s next? Nothing is very clear right now but what has been lost.

(Not all forest ecosystems respond well to fire; rainforests are vulnerable and we’re seeing swaths of the Amazon forest turning toward dryer savannah conditions, with more grass and less trees. Climate change is also affecting the Australian wilderness; its growing too hot and dry for forests. Tipping points make renewal a different story, one which is unpredictable.)

Renewal is an organic process, and to participate in it is a form of husbandry, as Wendell Berry writes.


In the stilled place that once was a road going down
from the town to the river, and where the lives of marriages grew
a house, cistern and barn, flowers, the tiled stone of borders,
and the deeds of their lives ran to neglect, and honeysuckle
and then the fire overgrew it all, I walk heavy
with seed, spreading on the cleared hill the beginnings
of green, clover and grass to be pasture. Between
history’s death upon the place and the trees that would have come
I claim, and act, and am mingled in the fate of the world.

—from Farming: A Hand Book (1969)

Ergo, my renewal and the world’s are part of the same act. There are many human transformations underway in the 21st century—dramatic and subtle, some for the better, others for the worse. Through history I am invested in a certain transit, or thought I was. But many things are changing, and the husbandry (and, yes, mid-wifery) of that is difficult. But it will be done.

Thomas Kineally, an Australian novelist (Schindler’s List), published an op-ed on Feb. 1 for the Australian edition of The Guardian on climate change and wildfire in Australia. Facing the growing possibility of an uninhabitable continent due to heat and fire, Kineally exhorted the denialist government of Scott Morrison to wake up to new possibilities. ” After our long glorying in minerals, it is promised that, if it wishes, Australia can be a leader in the new post-fossil-fuel world. It is a destiny our politicians seem unwilling to embrace, but they may have to.”

“For the fires have changed us,” he concluded. “Perhaps we, too, need fire to germinate an essential concept.”

Renewal is found in the ashes, there lies the germinating concept. But what does renewal look like?

As Heraclitus said, nothing can be properly named which is not first fully separated; Rage and Grief need their mosh-pit, so to speak. We have seen plenty of both here. But is that work an end in itself? Such poems eventually run out of oxygen, rope or ledge. I’m not sure what comes after, but it can be envisaged.

Maybe we start with something small.


William Stafford

We have all we need, some kind of sky and maybe
a piece of river. It doesn’t take much more
if your ghost remembers the rest, how Aunt Flavia
called the cows in the evening, and there wasn’t
anything coming down the road except a Ford
now and then, or a wagon with a lantern.

You could smell a little hay just to remind
the wind that sunlight would come back, and that
Heaven waited somewhere even if you couldn’t see it.
I don’t care now if the world goes backward—
we already had our show before the tornado came,
and somehow I feel in my hand all we ever held,
a ticket, a compass, a piece of iron,
our kind of pardon.

from Even In Quiet Places (1996)

For this week’s challenge, submit a poem about RENEWAL.  What does renewal look like in a vastly changing world? What is worth saving? Does one have to read the ashes to see it? Is it dreamlike in possibility? What other clues are there in our present situation? What is it like to begin?

Here’s to Renewal! Start writing!