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Life Arts    H4'ed 11/13/21

Clinging to the tree of life (poem)

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Thank god I am not living
In the great sacred mountains
Of northern India
Where the glaciers are receding
Like the milk of the Great Mother.
It would be painful to leave the home
That my distant ancestors built
To move to the valley
Where there is still water for life
But that's what is happening
One family at a time.

And I wouldn't want to live in Sydney
Where the temperature
Has reached 50 degrees Celsius
Where bats in the backyard
Try to survive the heat
By trying to stay in the shade.
But they are dying
Falling like fruit from
Trees that are themselves dying
One by one.

Thankfully I am not living in Karachi
Where someone's mother has no air-conditioning.
She hardly has any water.
I would be saving up my money
To buy her a tank
So she can have some water to drink
And cook and wash with.
Right now my mother would be scared.
When the temperature rises
People die one by one.

And I can't imagine living
In the tiny island village of Shishmaref
In the Bering Sea
Which is only a couple of feet
Above sea level.
The landing strip
Where the supply plane lands
Will be underwater in a few years.
The people there don't need a scientist to tell them
That they have no future.
Every year houses are taken by the sea
One by one.

No, I live in Vermont
Where climate change is all about
Scary numbers,
Contemplating distant disasters
And troubling hypothetical outcomes
Of our catastrophic way of life.
Like right now
All I can think of is the bats in Sydney,
Dropping from the tree of life.


The stories for this poem come from a series of articles from BBC World, about rising temperatures in sundry places around the globe. The stories by themselves are upsetting but I can always retreat to my relatively tranquil life in rural VT, but not for long. The articles keep reality at bay but poetry reshuffles the status quo, with, for example, the refrain of upsetting developments, like houses being taken by the sea, (call them omens), happening "one by one", or the metaphorical analogy of the receding glaciers in northern India and the milk of the Great Mother drying up. This is no geography lesson. The Himalaya's are "the sacred mountains". Poetry should be our link between science and the Dreamtime where bats dropping dead from trees in someone's backyard in Sydney, are, through the tell-all eyes of poetry, falling from the Tree of Life. Everyone has these eyes. They just have to use them.

(Article changed on Nov 13, 2021 at 8:41 PM EST)

(Article changed on Nov 13, 2021 at 8:45 PM EST)

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Gary Lindorff is a poet, writer, blogger and author of several nonfiction books, a collection of poetry, "Children to the Mountain" and a memoir, "Finding Myself in Time: Facing the Music" Over the last few years he has begun calling (more...)

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