I tried to write a poem today, another sestina-sonnet hybrid. I developed the form a few years ago; the first two are in my book, one as the title poem, the other a poem called “Revelations.” They both deal, in some sections, with violence against nature, though the first deals also with war, and the second with violence against women; both finger religion as a mental toxin encouraging all such violence. The point of both is that all these issues are related. The reading I’ve been doing in Riane Eisler’s The Chalice and the Blade makes clear how all of these issues flow from the mindset we’ve all inherited as part of a global dominator culture, of which patriarchal religion has been a tool for control. (I finished reading that book today, and it’s at the top of the list of books in the page I just set up before making this post, “Rec’d Reading.” The list includes a number of books that have helped me develop a mindset that embraces humanity as one species among many, in desperate need of a new way of seeing ourselves in relation to each other and the rest of the planet. I hope you’ll consider reading them if the BP disaster is leaving you feeling like we need to find a better way…which I hope it has! That’s the silver lining I see.)
The poem I tried to start today, “Accommodations,” is going to focus even more centrally on our relationship with the natural world. I’ve had the list of 14 words (to use one at the end of each line, in the folding pattern borrowed from the sestina) since I left Shreveport over two years ago. But when I sat down today to write the first of the fifteen sections, I just couldn’t do it. I’m stuck, blocked by anger and frustration. (I think I also needed lunch.) And despair, largely fueled by the series of pictures posted at Boston.com, including the one above (click on it to see the whole thing).
I wrote a poem recently attempting to grapple with the BP ecocide (as Michael Rothenberg of Big Bridge aptly called it), using a haiku form. Each stanza was a stand-alone haiku, at least in form, if not in content. I wrote it in response to the call at Poets for Living Waters. One of the stanzas goes like this:
Anger clogs my throat.
I’m mired in helplessness like
an oil-soaked seabird.
The stricture of the haiku form allowed me to distill and control my anger and despair, and own up to my own guilt. Because I do feel guilty. I may not indulge in excessive driving, I may garden organically, I may live without central air, we may buy some local food, but we DO drive, we DO buy food that’s shipped from elsewhere. I live within an infrastructure that relies on petroleum. Period. We all do. I don’t think there’s really one of us who can’t, shouldn’t, in some measure, own this.
What we’ve done down there:
generations will watch it
help it, heal. The scars.
And yes, it will take generations to heal this. The scope of this spill has yet to be grasped. And the scars may well be permanent: there’s no recovery from extinction. In an older, long poem, “Dreaming the Earth,” I wrote, to close it:
Finally, I weep. I weep a sea She can bathe in
a sea of tears of contrition, an ocean
that swallows my soul. Exhausted
I sleep. I dream
we threw out ideas about
boundaries and race.
We see ourselves as one species
each one a voice
in the Divine Chorus.
Never mind how many have been silenced
in the eternal loss of extinction
never mind that we will never be able to ask
the beautiful questions each one was an answer to
we light a galaxy of candles
and forgive our Ancestors
then do our best
to right their many wrongs.
It’s going to take work from all of us. Work, humility, patience. My best friend from high school, Deanna Graff, has been an inspiration to all of her friends, collecting dog and human hair from salons in the city where she lives to make booms to help clean up the spill, working with Matter of Trust. This is something we all can do. We all can do our best to drive less, to walk and to bike, which will be good for our own health as well as the health of the planet. And we can put pressure on our legislators to pass the Clean Energy Act. It will take a thousand little actions, but it will be done. We owe it to future generations to let this be a wake-up call.
Sing, then, all of us.
Sing over the ocean’s bones.
This song of sorry.