Unseasonably warm on this 26th of April, 86° in the shade, giving new meaning to “the cruelest month” moniker, and I’m biking home from work, still in work clothes, feeling myself try to crawl out of them, the sun beating down on my back as I pedal home. It’s a short ride, but long enough. My heart beats a little faster than it normally does as I pedal into the drive. I put the bike away, drink a tall glass of sparkling water with a tinge of lemon and let the dogs outside. They run in circles, bite at each other, eat sticks and clods, dig holes in the rich spring dirt, bark at nothing. She sends me a text: a picture of these blue bird feathers she found today in the sawdust, a poetry prompt, she said. Spring time carnage. I’d forgotten to tell her about yesterday’s discovery in the gravel driveway: a decapitated bird head, covered with flies, still attached to a spine four or five inches long. Nothing else left. I didn’t take a picture of that. Too small to smell the rot, but as I scoop it up with the shovel, a memory of the smell of animal death visits briefly, and I toss the thing unceremoniously into the trash. It’s difficult and kind of terrifying to imagine what must have happened while no one was looking. A neighborhood cat maybe, or those damn crows, too smart for their own good, they say. Everything blooms. Everything dies. Look at these bluebells cropping up like weeds, these pink things, these sweet, spicy lilac flowers. Smell the sawdust in your fingers as you pick through in your gloves to remove the dead bird feathers. And today, and yesterday, Wordsworth and Shelley both sang “Mutability” to my 10th graders. They understood.
Letting the Lawn Brown Out
Otherwise, it would cost a small fortune
for all the water it would take
to keep it green, and who’s to say that somehow
green is prettier than brown?
It’s softer, yeah, sure, but I’m not
a barefoot kind of guy so I’m always
wearing shoes and I’d never
know the difference.
And brown grass doesn’t grow
so I haven’t had to mow
the stuff all summer long.
I am getting used to the idea
that a brown lawn is just as attractive
as any other lawn color,
and that’s good, because I think
we’ll all have to get used to brown
lawns, eventually all year long
until everything just shrivels up and dies
while we sit around admiring the beauty
of the dried up grass, the withering trees,
the lovely gray, tan-tinted roses in the garden.
It’s Earth Day
and I rode my bicycle to work,
but that’s a thing I do almost every day.
I allow myself a little smugness
for making more than the obligatory nod.
I can pat myself on the back for making
the decision to live in the neighborhood
in which I work, so a thing like bicycle
commuting is an easier commitment to make.
my house is big,
I have grass to mow, and there’s lots of it,
so a push mower is out of the question.
There’s too much shade to garden,
and we’ve not been composting like we should.
We can’t figure out what to do with all the dog shit.
All the kid’s stuff is packaged in plastic
or made of plastic and will eventually end up in a landfill.
And what about all of these electronic gizmos,
televisions, stereo receivers, speakers, computers, radios,
old refrigerators, cheap-ass coffee makers, and the like?
I’m kind of ashamed of my cd collection.
Even the most conscientious of us collect this crap
and it’s no good for the Earth.
Recently, I’ve become afraid.
I don’t know what kind of world
we will leave our children
but I hope its a habitable one,
or better than habitable.
And I wonder: Do people have it in them
to transform their lives
and reverse the damage done,
make amends to the planet?
The Earth will likely survive us in any case;
but whether it continues to support the species,
–that is the million dollar question–
and whether or not we love our children
and our children’s children enough
to somehow get the thing right
before it’s too late.
The American English Teacher Reads the Ancient Chinese Masters
I want those mountains, that river,
my head in those clouds–that kind of wandering,
self-ablaze, alive with possibility,
drunk with wine,
as silent as nature,
found again only through right diligence,
an effort conspired against by
almost every natural fact of modern living.
I long to see stars again
and breathe deeply an air free of diesel,
gasoline, concrete, rubber, and garbage, which,
even in my bucolic suburban neighborhood, is always present,
the persistent, nagging ghost,
the shadow of civilized life.
Filed under Culture, Poetry