"[The History of Green]"
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
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
in seed, stalk, flower, root
praising aloud the name
of everything that survives
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:
lead, the discarded
ambition of empire
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
we are made of – the same lime
gold, zinc, magnesium – as soil.
We are Earth. What we do
to the ground, we do
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.