"[The History of Green]"

Read Ann Filemyr here

 

Ecopoetics insists on our status as one species among kin, one form of

saltwater expressing itself on this oceanic planet, one consciousness

alongside a billion others.

 

Ecopoetics sings of the Presence that infuses all Living.

 

Ecopoetics bears witness to this moment of history while simultaneously

remembering the journey of our human evolution as deep air animals

completely adapted to thrive on this Earth, our home planet.

 

As we are both nature and culture, we are often divided against ourselves.

Ecopoetics envisions resilience and healing.

 

Ecopoetics honors embodiment as our fundamental condition, and therefore

the flesh is sacred, the body is holy language, and the experience of living

fully with others is the aim.

 

The History of Green

begins when rock yields to water

and the devouring thirst of the sea

is quenched by morning,

when stone holds day close

until pebbles rain

seed from their embrace,

then green gathers itself

from fringes of sunlight

like the shadow of moss

 

Turquoise is green’s prayer

gracing the edge of stone

humming pollen’s melody

until birds sing their green songs

making an egg in a nest

a poem to wheel the sun

across open sky

 

Yes, green is what happened

in the time before

we were born

before continents drifted apart

before summer surrendered to ice.

Green loves itself

in dawn’s slippery light

in northern lakes lined with cedar

in malachite, emerald, jade

lime, dill, pistachio, each cold-pressed olive

the pungent cleansing smoke of sage

and in the glove around the sinuous streak

called snake. Green gives itself away

and still has more

 

Until green

becomes another word for gold.

Then green is hoarded into acres.

Cut into measured squares called money.

Locked and guarded

by soldiers in green camouflage.

 

Green becomes the billyclub of greed

the hideous accounts of the corporate

who hide behind armies

reducing the hours of our days

to wages worth less than

the total sum of our tragedy.

 

Green waves of nausea

wrack the body of the man

who cannot get enough to eat.

Green envy strangles the throat

of a woman who has nothing to sell

but her body on the street of the city.

And green is the prostitute’s wages

laid down on sweaty sheets.

 

Green fear rises with mounting terror

as police in riot gear fling tear gas

at the protestors marching.

The boot of the rich kicks back

screaming more, more, give me more

the feverish craving, the addict shaking

the CEO and the crackhead

have much in common.

 

Green had once been alive

on every branch and meadow grass.

The Gardening Angels in Detroit remember.

They begin gathering green

hidden in rust-colored, bean-colored seed

planting green in burnt-out brownfields

harvesting green to feed their families

and the honey-loving bees

return to sweeten the torn-up alleys

but their sting, a flying thorn

still carries the pain of green flames

destroying green woods. Oh, green,

please remember hills, valleys

verdant, fertile, a woman’s belly, her breasts

the very beginning

 

Green is the birthing cry

which brings into being

algae, slime, fern, fig

and all manner of feathered leaves.

Green is the fist of the forest.

Green is the shoot

the unfurling flag of Spring

the food for all that follows

 

Green, first born of star and wave

ancestor to all animals

unceasing despite misuse

cracking through cement

sprouting in a jar

wetting the gardener’s hands

renewing itself after drought

 

Green, I take you in my mouth

bite, chew, swallow, excrete.

You give hunger

and the means to satisfy

 

Green sustains the memory

of god as

the spiraling cycle

murmuring continuance

in seed, stalk, flower, root

praising aloud the name

of everything that survives

***

Required Reversal

Ever since we were taught to love money

more than our own tender flesh it has been

disaster after disaster.

Human flesh in slave trade. Refugees in

hiding. The cracked nuclear plant hit

by tsunami. Climate-change storm

ravaging the coast. Mercury in the

spillway. Wrecked babies. Benzene. Chloride.

Asthma. I did the news story.

Marked the map. One red pin for each reported

cancer. Saw the pattern of dirty

rivers. My brother was hired to count

brain tumors from the apartment built with

radioactive brick while I

measured the level of chromium

in the sludge pond at the coal plant. Holding

the hand of an old friend ruined

by chemo, what could I say? We will find

microbes that bio remediate oil

making it safe once again to

kneel beside the filthy Ohio, cup

the flowing water and drink. Yes,

drink. Instead I spread her ashes on the

egg of the Serpent Mound, weeping, just as

politicians vote to start

another war. I protest. But not. Loud

enough. Now when I hold a glass of cool

water in my hand, I try not

to think about nitrates. Microtoxins

of black mold growing in the garage. Then

I realize I must think about them.

Must know.What is my world. Must love.

All I can. Recall learning about the

smoke from cooking fires in the beehive pueblos

of long ago. How they smudged the lungs

of those now gone. I know this. I know we

die. Of something. Sometime. Still I

want to lay my belly down on the pink

sand of the Rio Grande to sip without

fear, my grateful heart singing to

everyone who will make this rebirth

possible, I see you making changes

even if the poison in me

cannot be reversed.

***

The Cat Dream

Seeking the heart

that is not my heart, the mind

that is not my mind, I reach

for a feral kitten beneath the barn.

End up with wretched cat scratch fever.

Intravenous antibiotic. The icy

kiss of stethoscope. Twitch of fluorescent light.

I black out. Squat naked in a snowdrift

staring into the mouth of a cave.

Two luminous moons meet mine.

The lynx steps toward. I lean forward.

Our noses press together, wet to wet,

the fecund dust of fur, a purring thunder,

Let the green mountains roar! Let the rain cry!

Let the wild thrive! Let me live! Let me live!

Finally, I shake the shadow

death recedes, mist rises from the lake

a skinless, boundless freedom

Earth’s joy lifting into dusk

***

What We Do, What We Are

 

We cannot heal ourselves until we heal the Earth.

We cannot heal the Earth until we heal ourselves.

-

Rio de Janeiro Declaration,

World Parliament of Indigenous Peoples, 1992

Snow clouds pony the gray mountain.

Dried rosehips cling to the branch.

Pockmarked ice on the north side

refuses to melt, and inside

the soft cells of her body:

cadmium, thallium,

lead, the discarded

ambition of empire

lodged against

neuron; fatigue

dampening

the will

to live

 

No more oil-rich paint glossy against canvas

cadmium red, cadmium yellow, each quick

stroke of the brush lasting a thousand

years, what has been done is done

beneath our flesh, a shadow

measured in micrograms

of xylene, toluene

too late to learn

no safe level.

In the long

tired night

I recall

what

 

we are made of – the same lime

gold, zinc, magnesium – as soil.

We are Earth. What we do

to the ground, we do

to ourselves

***

The Hike

Sage first. Then sweetgrass.

Now tell me the history of your body.

Did you ever live beside the Platte River?

How old were you when you played

in the sludge at Point Beach Nuclear Plant?

Did you chow down the milk chocolate

from the dairy at Three Mile Island?

(enormous bovine eyes blinking at the sky)

Did you drink

unfiltered water from the

municipality of Milwaukee

the week the sewage backed up? Were

you nearby when the fires

raged above Los Alamos? How

many times did you cross

your heart and hope to

die, singing, ashes ashes

we all fall down? Did you

stumble in the subway

when the twin towers tumbled?

Did you witness the scrim

separating first class from the riff-raff

burst into flame? I cannot tell you

who the great-grandbaby of robber barons is,

or what peasants from which shtetl

carry the gene. You will not live

forever. The long sob of the blues

and the land-grab legacy of America

reminds us the carrier pigeons’

extinction could have been predicted

if anyone had been paying attention. This autumn

hike beneath golden aspens serves as

warning. Today, my friend, our hearts beat

hard, perspiration along our brows, your legs

pump like a twenty year old as we climb.

Leukemia is a word, but who can comprehend

such abstraction? A raven tips above

the rocky outcrop, daggers of sunlight

stab our eyes. We both stop

stand, breathe, wait, listen, live

 

before moving on

 

 

 

 

Ann Filemyr, Ph.D., Is the Chief Academic Officer at the institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe which will be offering a low residency MFA in Creative Writing beginning in 2013. She is a poet and essayist. Recent books of poetry include: On the Nature of Tides (LaNana Creek Press 2012); The Healer's Diary (Sunstone Press 2012) Growing Paradise (LaNana Creek Press 2011). She has also worked as an environmental journalist and Professor at Antioch College in Ohio.

poetryBarzakh Mag