04 August 2018

Lessons from Earth and Oz

"See Me" by Lori Christopher
Used with permission, 
©Lori Christopher

           Dis ease hit all poets simultaneously.

Perhaps, we thought, the cure was writing depressing
poetry so no one could think we were untouched.

Though we did little else.  We couldn’t imagine
what else to do beyond words, letters and protests—
that is, not until Orca whales carried their dead.

Carried their dead for days and weeks and maybe years,
carried them so everyone could see, like open
coffins forever, saying, See? We won’t keep this
out of sight.  Look.  Look at my calf.  Look at your crimes.

See my community carry me when I’m tired.
And then it came to us: We could carry objects
more real than metaphor and signs.  We could carry
our dead outside our laden emotions.  We could
sanctuary and caravan, though we’ve lost

very little—not yet—but when the poor are gone
and the powerless fall silent, who will be next? 
This is an old song, one the whales are carrying.
Songs without words.  Living beings objectified.

Let’s lift up death.  Refuse to bury it.  Insist
on sight and smell. Press home. Ease on down the road.

We don't want wizards  We want hearts, minds and courage.

Cowardly lion2.jpg
Dorothy meets the Cowardly Lion,
from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz , first edition.
Illustration by W.W. Denslow (d. 1915)

You'll note the allusion to Emmett Till!

My blog poems are rough drafts.
Please respect my copyright. 

© 2018 Susan L. Chast


Sherry Blue Sky said...

OH! MY! GOODNESS! Just PERFECT. My new favourite of yours, ever. I cant tell you how much I love this poem. Hearts, minds and courage are exactly what is needed now. Let's vote them in. This whale will transform consciousness....and consciences............we live in hope.

Sreeja said...

Let’s lift up death. Refuse to bury it. Insist
on sight and smell. Press home. Ease on down the road.
We don't want wizards We want hearts, minds and courage.
.............Powerful ..loved this!

Susan said...

I AM REPOSTING THIS 2018 POEM for Brenden's earthweal, Poetry of a changing Earth. The weekly challenge written by SHERRY is: THE ANIMALS OF CLIMATE CHANGE 1/27/2020


Mary said...

Interesting that this poem from 2018 is so relevant today. That is what good poetry is -- it is timeless. As valid in 2018 as in 2020 and probably in 2030 as well. And I am moved by the idea of when the poor are gone and the powerless are silent, who will be next. We hope that our hearts, minds, and courage somehow inspire action....not only depressing poetry. We DO have to keep hope alive somehow.

Truedessa said...

I remember reading about that whale that carried her calf for days and many of us watched and grieved with her.

Brendan said...

This inhabits the heart of our quandary, this "dis-ease" which so many of us share: How can we write of such heartbreaking loss, and how dare we not? I have said there is a strength in carrying our climate grief together -- believing a shared burden is lightened one -- But what is that work now that we have seen orcas carry their dead, aloft and surfaced, in sight for all? Can poets too carry the dead? Voice the canaries burnt in the coal mines? The whole poetic exercise becomes a duty and a labor. That we may turn our gaze, see what is and is coming, and unite in the bond and burden and work of singing through. Lifting up our dead, refusing to bury them, pressing home. Yes and yes and yes. Terrible work some times (this week's earthweal challenge by Sherry is most difficult) but I suspect our verses will wither and die without "sight and smell." A changing Earth will not allow anything else, I suspect. We are broken too in this heat and storm and fire and surge. Singing blithe or false or elsewhere is extractionist and colonial: coal we stole to heat our little lonely houses. Anyway, very important contribution to the Animals of Climate Change challenge.

Sumana Roy said...

"See my community carry me when I’m tired." So much camaraderie, empathy, respect and love is woven here. Humanity has now drifted far away from such simple, pure traits that once made them human. Such a beautiful poem!

brudberg said...

Yes, yes... showing the dead is the only thing that can have people react... dead koalas, polar bears, show them so everyone sees, smells... change is always carried on wings of emotions.

hedgewitch said...

Your beginning is most eloquent for me, Susan, expressing as it does what often seems to be the futility of the poetic voice to effect change--yet like the other things you list, it's one of the tools those among us who care must use to change what looks so deadly and unchangeable. Perhaps it isn't just through poems, but through poems as part of a larger movement, that the pen starts to become mightier than the sword. The challenge to "lift up death" is a real one, and belongs to all of us--let the poems lead the way.

hyperCRYPTICal said...

Yes, let us lift up death for all to see.
Sadly, I think most of us will refuse to see it, for unfortunately we are only interested in the needs of now and damn everyone else.
Anna :o[