Some Questions about the Storm
What's the bird ratio overhead?
Zero: zero. Maybe it's El Niño?
The storm, was it bad?
Here the worst ever. Every tree hurt.
Do you love trees?
Only the gingko, the fir, the birch.
Yours? Do you name your trees?
Who owns the trees? Who's talking
You presume a dialogue. Me and You.
Yes. Your fingers tap. I'm listening.
Will you answer? Why mention trees?
When the weather turned rain into ice, the leaves failed.
So what? Every year leaves fail. The cycle. Birth to death.
In the night the sound of cannon, and death everywhere.
What did you see?
Next morning, roots against the glass.
Who's talking now and in familiar language? Get real.
What's real is the broken crown. The trunk shattered.
Was that storm worse than others?
Yes and no. The wind's torque twisted open the tree's tibia.
Fool. You're talking about vegetables. Do you love the patio
tomato? The Christmas cactus?
Yes. And the magnolia on the roof, the felled crabapple, the topless
Emily Dickinson, 1863
Conjecturing a Climate
Of unsuspending Suns -
Adds poignancy to Winter
May I shuffle forward and tell you the two minute life of rain
Starting right now lips open and lidless-cold all-seeing gaze
When something not yet anything changes its mind like me
And begins to fall
In the small hours
And the light is still a flying carpet
Only a little white between worlds like an eye opening after an operation
No turning back
each drop is a snap decision
A suicide from the tower-block of heaven
And for the next ten seconds
The rain stares at the ground
Sees me stirring here
As if sculpted in porridge
Sees the garden in the green of its mind already drinking
And the grass lengthening
Maybe a thousand feet above me
A kind of yellowness or levity
Like those tiny alterations that brush the legs of swimmers
Lifts the rain a little to the left
No more than a flash of free-will
Until the clouds close their options and the whole
surrenders to pure fear and
And I who live in the basement
one level down from the world
with my eyes to the insects with my ears to the roots
I feel them in my bones these dead straight lines
Coming closer and closer to my core
This is the sound this is the very floor
Where Grief and his Wife are living
Scratching for Metaphor in the Somerset Coalfields
I am here, at the scene of a breaking;
broken bits, the metaphor of crushed paradise;
forested history of burning; a trace element
version of heritage. Ex-colliery lands
where the mines were part of the lung.
Radstock. 1794. The Fever of August.
Coleridge is crossing a boundary to his lyric field;
by counter-spirit. Under his feet
Old Pit is open: boys and men
mine its difficult, faulted, folded vein in the dark;
their candles opening limited allowance of light.
Today’s halo, our luminescence: the sun.
Bright flat walls; shadows in corners.
Under new roads, coal is unviable;
forces of earth press old roadways shut.
How much carbon dioxide has breathed through?
Carting boys have lived and gone.
Whole lives burned their taper in winning coal.
I make the metaphor: a word is a lump of coal,
locked-in energy of an example.
This piece is dense with experience:
as it burns, it disappears.
Its carbon harness, stripped off and bonded by fire
to oxygen and air: two wings of dioxide’s
light and buoyant paraphernalia.
This is combustion; earth to the exosphere.
Driving to Radstock from the north (Norwegian diesel)
you see the coalfields of Somerset.
Each year, time is a little shorter.
Coal still powers the electrical grid in part.
From minerals below, the Tropic of Cancer was landed;
Carboniferous club moss, horsetail’s waterlogged equatorial.
I put a light to dry tinder under the smudge of coal
and the peacock glint of its variants; solid, dark and old.
We will disappear; we will nuance, contribute, divulge
this agent into airs. I think we will disappear.
But where the fire happens, today and active;
closer, get closer.
Seas rise, glaciers melt, winds stricken.
It could be a voice, a skew in the song of billions;
coal’s articulate agency, the deformed, aerated lace
smouldering. A widow’s veil.
An action of striking, a tautology of flame:
I put the image of coal into metaphor;
smudging my fingers. Watch how it burns.
Watch how it flares, extrudes, goes grey.
Coal’s wild, iconic body.
Smoke deviates air to exist as fumes.
The tick of cinders, compounding fathoms.
Coal fuelled Portishead Power Station until 1973;
how did it burn fast enough? A chandelier is still electric.
At the wires’ ends coal is the landscape too hot to walk;
and it must be bituminous, it must be tarry,
forest trinkets fuming to the sun.
Mineralised swamp-forest unburdened of exact place;
exhausted, freighted, fractured. Its fossil detail,
drift-continent travelogue, brought up in carts.
The spoil tips are high.
Radstock today: its fluency its own.
Above, in the glitter-sphere of the ultra,
the heat-lake capture of air,
a damage persists: a weird register of shimmer.
Roads smoke into corridors, cities mirage.
Water grows acid, eats stone, heats air.
The pattern of material looks erratic. It’s like
wild-catting transcendence; the wayward
afterlife of ancient plants; a secondary imperfect parable
of power for metaphor, transport, speech through smoke.
We closed the borders, folks, we nailed it.
No trees, no plants, no immigrants.
No foreign nurses, no Doctors; we smashed it.
We took control of our affairs. No fresh air.
No birds, no bees, no HIV, no Poles, no pollen.
No pandas, no polar bears, no ice, no dice.
No rainforests, no foraging, no France.
No frogs, no golden toads, no Harlequins.
No Greens, no Brussels, no vegetarians, no lesbians.
No carbon curbed emissions, no Co2 questions.
No lions, no tigers, no bears. No BBC picked audience.
No loony lefties, please. No politically correct classes.
No classes. No Guardian readers. No readers.
No emus, no EUs, no Eco warriors, no Euros,
No rhinos, no zebras, no burnt bras, no elephants.
We shut it down! No immigrants, no immigrants.
No sniveling-recycling-global-warming nutters.
Little man, little woman, the world is a dangerous place.
Now, pour me a pint, dear. Get out of my fracking face.
The morning after, the beach at Borth
is a graveyard, a petrified forest
thundered out of the sand by the storm,
drowned by the sea six thousand years ago
when the Earth was flat,
the horizon the edge of the world.
Remains of stilted walkways tell their story:
how they walked over water between trees,
longing for a lost land when the sea-god stole it,
how they shouldered their children and fled
with every creature that could crawl, run, fly,
till time turned truth to myth.
It’s how it will be as world turns reflective:
seas sated with meltwater, craving more;
a cliff-fall takes a bungalow; a monstrous
tide rips up a coastal train-track;
storm fells a thousand-year-old oak,
smashes a graceful seaside promenade.
Grieve for lost wilderness - for the lovesick salmon,
lured by sweet river-water sleeved in the salt,
homing upstream to spawn at the source
where it was born; for mating hares
in love with the March wind; for thermals
lifting a flaunt of red kites over the wood;
for bees mooning for honey in weedless fields;
for sleepy Marsh Fritillary butterflies
swarming the ancient bog of Cors Llawr Cwrt;
for the Brown Hairstreak in love with blackthorn
and the honeydew of aphids in the ash;
for the blackbird’s evening aria of possession;
for Earth’s intricate engineering, unpicked
like the flesh, sinews, bones of the mother duck
crushed on the motorway, her young
bewildered in a blizzard of feathers;
the balance of things undone by money,
the indifferent hunger of the sea.
*Cantre’r Gwaelod, (The Drowned Hundred) a legendary land lost under Cardigan Bay.
The storms of February 2014 uncovered a petrified forest and evidence of ancient habitation from the beach at Borth.
Still Life with Sea Pinks and High Tide by
Thrift grows tenacious at the tide’s reach.
What is that reach when the water
is rising, rising?
Our melting, shifting, liquid world won’t wait
for manifesto or mandate, each
warning a reckoning.
Ice in our gin or vodka chirrups and squeaks
dissolving in the hot, still air
of talking, talking.
Silent Sea by Rachael Boast
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea
- S.T. Coleridge
Another vessel sheds the chrome
of its silver mile until a mile
meanders into three, triples again
over the reef. Nothing can breathe
under oil, nor register that
dark membrane’s slick
over sight. We were the first
cracking the hull of the earth
open, our foolish husbandry
a metallurgy that's brimmed
with false gold too often
we can talk, and talk, and talk
but a ship in space, manned
by non-thinking from non-feeling,
says absolutely nothing at all.
The Solace of Artemis "
for Catriona Crowe
I read that every polar bear alive has mitochondrial DNA
from a common mother, an Irish brown bear who once
roved out across the last ice age, and I am comforted.
It has been a long hot morning with the children of the machine,
their talk of memory, of buying it, of buying it cheap, but I,
memory keeper by trade, scan time coded in the golden hive mind
of eternity. I burn my books, I burn my whole archive:
a blaze that sears, synapses flaring cell to cell where
memory sleeps in the wax hexagonals of my doomed and melting comb.
I see him loping towards me across the vast ice field
to where I wait in the cave mouth, dreaming my cubs about the den,
my honied ones, smelling of snow and sweet oblivion.
The land bridge connecting Great Britain to mainland Europe during the last Ice Age was gradually flooded by rising sea levels around 6,500 BC.
It was discovered in 1931 when a Norfolk trawler dredged up an unexpected artefact.
Out from Cromer in an easy sea, Pilgrim Lockwood
cast his nets and fetched up a harpoon.
Twelve thousand years had blunted not one barb.
An antler sharpened to a spike, a bony bread knife
from a time of glassy uplands and no bread:
Greetings from Doggerland, it said.
It’s cold. We answer ice with elk and mammoth, larks
and people like you. We are few. We hunt and eat and walk
and then move on, or fall. There are midges
but you can’t have everything. We fish or fowl;
we stalk carp-fat lagoons with ivory spears.
Our softened swamps are thick with eels. We sing.
Pilgrim felt his feet transparent on the deck, a sailor
treading uplands sixty fathoms back; saw nettled deer tracks
pooling, inch by sodden inch, into a whaler’s channel;
inlands islanded and highlands turned to shipping hazards,
fellsides lessened to a knuckled string; the sly brine
loosing peat from longbones, locking snails into the bedrock.
He turned for harbour, kissed the quoins of every house
and took to hillwalking. Time, he said, was water:
water, time. At neap tides he felt England’s backbone
shift and shiver; saw the caverns fill, the railways rivered
and the Pennine mackerel flashing through lead mines,
the last dove lifting from the summit of Lose Hill.
A Language of Change
‘as late capitalism writhed in its internal decision concerning whether
to destroy Earth’s biosphere or change its rules’
– Kim Stanley Robinson
We’re sat by the ocean and this
could be a love poem; but that lullaby murderer
refuses each name I give it
and the icebergs seep into our sandwiches,
translated by carbon magic. And even this might be
to say too much. But the muse of poetry
has told me to be more clear – and don’t,
s/he said, for the love of God, please, screw things up.
Ambiguous, I didn’t reply; as we’re sat
by the ocean and I could make it
anything you wanted, for this moment
of speaking – but we have made it
something forever. Together
is a language we can barely understand;
but confessional experts detect
in the senseless diktat of hurricane
a hymning of our sins, our stupid counterpoint.
Love has served its purpose, now must be
transformed by an impersonal sequester
of me into the loves I will not see,
or touch, or in any way remember.
Perhaps it was always like this – take my hand,
horizon – ceding this land.
Almonds and vines and lawns
drink up the last
of shallow, short-term water
then suck on the black depths
with a draw mightier
than the moon’s. And suck.
In sudden places the ground
puckers and caves.
Far westward, China smokes.
Nobody sees the rains fail
until they have.
Tableland mesas crack.
In the mountains the snowpack thins,
meltwater now brown
Cities gasp in the sun’s stare.
and families turn inwards.
There must be somebody to blame.
Better ourselves than no-one.
of damage done
but whether we could truly
dry all rain, bake all earth,
science does not know.
The wastefulness was all
ours but this fetid heat
could be a planetary
like an ice age,
so it might well be wise
to keep always
facepaint and ash about us.
When the last clouds
loincloth and invocation will be
the one hope for last
woman and last man discovering
How would they know whether
they’re coming or going
as they swish that way and this
in such fierce weather,
these winter trees between
the window and the lake,
those snappy ashes
and that steadfast evergreen,
its ivy clinging on for life?
The tips of Sitka spruces bend
like sailboats in a storm at sea.
Sturdy sceptres, emblems of strife.
Shrubs stand unshaken in the shelter
of an alcove, under eaves.
Late sentinels — their woodland
cousins flurry in a welter
of distress as when in fright
we start awake and worry
where we are. We scan the map
by lightning’s light.
And so to whom now will we turn,
now that the long nights
lean on us? Now who or what
will guide us as they burn,
those fires of house and hearth,
in guttery flickers?
As if there were no end to plenty
we plundered earth.
Where are they now, those chaste priestesses
who tended embers borne from Troy
and kept them lighting year on year
for centuries? For anyone who transgresses
nothing worse than the shame —
not even the mandatory sentence,
for that became our task and duty. We had
their trust. They held us as protectors of the flame.
Perhaps the World Ends Here
BY Joy Harjo
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.
“Forests keep disappearing
rivers dry up
wild life’s become extinct
the climate’s ruined and the land grows poorer and uglier every day."
- Anton Chekhov, 1897