Photo by Marie-Lynn Hammond
Photo by Marie-Lynn Hammond

Barely Noticed

belatedly crept up on us
we barely noticed

we hauled up all the drawbridges
barricaded ourselves in
against the pestilence

but it invaded by stealth
and left us powerless
as peasants

and while we
counted potatoes
and washed
our hands
buds swelled
grass grew
squirrels nonchalantly
went about their business
birds sang unruffled
in the blossoming warmth

and in the flowerbeds
the grape hyacinths
sprang upward
in triumph
tiny tender spears
of royal hue

while we cowered
and sickened
and died

the greening earth
barely noticed

Elk at Picnic Table Photo by Marie-Lynn Hammond
Photo by Marie-Lynn Hammond

Everything and Nothing

I fear when this is over
that we will have learned everything
and nothing
that we will zoom back to “normal”

(As if the way things were before was normal—
humans heaping ruin on the verdant earth,
leaving blood and tempests, extinction and empty dust
in our wake)

Like an old film reel rewinding
the skies over China will morph
from their new blue
to choking orange
workers will back up
return to factories
to churn out tawdry goods
none of us really need
cars and people will swarm in reverse
through our now empty cities
to be devoured and spat out
over and over
by cogs and sprockets
ones and zeros
the market’s insatiable maw

And the golden butterfly in Brazil
newly emerged into sunlight
and fragile survival
will be extirpated by a key stroke
in some mining czar’s office
on the seventeenth floor

Our newfound kindness
as sweet and plump as a nectarine
will shrivel and shrink
to a stony

And the wild goats and deer
now grazing on suburban lawns
and lolling in the empty, sun-warmed streets
will gallop backward
to their old haunts
their shrinking forests

to nothing

Blue Lake Photo by Marie-Lynn Hammond
Photo by Marie-Lynn Hammond

The Plague

This winter drove us, hard and cruel;
we suffered its barbaric rule.
It killed our spring, gave us instead
this sickness and unending dread,
as, distantly, we mourned our dead.

But now, this first mild spell in May,
the lake lies calm and blue today.
Frost-blighted buds, though brown and curled,
persist, and soon will be unfurled
as if no change has marked our world.

Yet change has come, with surely more,
and likely worse, for us in store;
for we have desecrated all,
have fouled our nest with toxic sprawl,
and hastened Eden’s second fall.

We poison land and sea and air,
and stamp out species everywhere;
we rape the earth for oil and gold
(until the centre cannot hold)
and breed like rabbits, uncontrolled.

Oh, how we breed and breed and breed!
Eight billion hungry mouths to feed.
And greed gets overlaid on top,
so some must starve while others shop.
But want trumps all; we do not stop.

And yet the lake is calm today…
it seems to hold the plague at bay.
The earth in balance once again;
no raging flames, no hurricane,
no drought or ceaseless, flooding rain.

The robins preen, spring peepers peep,
the sap still runs, the trout still leap.
But can it be forever thus?

No. Nature should kick up a fuss,
for now we know: the plague is us.

This post originally appeared on Festival of the Arts, edited by Kim Aubrey and Felicity Sidnell Reid.

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