Friday, April 22, 2022

Earth Day Verse with the World at the Tipping Point of Catastrophe—National Poetry Month 2022

Today is Earth Day which was first observed world-wide with giant marches and rallies on April 22, 1970.  It took the energy and activism of the peace movement and anti-Vietnam War protests and gave people a new purpose.  It has generally been credited with reorienting  somewhat stodgy and human-use focused conservationism into a dynamic ecology movement.  It is still widely celebrated and has become a kind of semi-official holiday.  But it has often been co-opted and is used both by polluting mega corporations and thumb-twiddling governments as green washing and providing support for band aid personal activities like recycling to avoid deeper changes which would cut profits, re-order economies, and fundamentally change how we live our lives.

The radical cutting edge of environmentalism is now the youth-led climate change activists inspired by Greta Thunberg which accept no excuses, demand immediate action, and are willing to employ mass disruptive direct action.

This year the ugly, brutal invasion of Ukraine also reminds us that war itself is an ecological disaster as if other conflicts involving non-Europeans like those in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Palestine, sub-Saharan Africa, Myanmar, and Central America were not enough evidence.

Still, Earth Day remains at least an important reminder for many people.  Today we share  appropriate poems for the occasion by Jane Yolen, Jerry Pendergast, the venerable but very dead Walt Whitman, and a still kicking Old Man.

                                Jane Yolen.

Jane Yolen, born February 11, 1939 is an American writer of fantasy, science fiction, and children’s books. She is the author or editor of more than 350 books, of which the best known is the Holocaust novella The Devil’s Arithmetic.  Her other works include the Nebula Award−winning short story Sister Emily’s Lightship, the novelette Lost Girls, Owl Moon, The Emperor and the Kite, the Commander Toad series, and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight.  She has collaborated on works with all three of her children, most extensively with Adam Stemple.

Earth Day

I am the Earth

And the Earth is me.

Each blade of grass,

Each honey tree,

Each bit of mud,

And stick and stone

Is blood and muscle,

Skin and bone.


And just as I

Need every bit

Of me to make

My body fit,

So Earth needs

Grass and stone and tree

And things that grow here



That’s why we

Celebrate this day.

That’s why across

The world we say:

As long as life,

As dear, as free,

I am the Earth

And the Earth is me.


Jane Yolen

Jerry Pendergast. 

Jerry Pendergast is a working class Chicago poet and activist who frequently shares his work on the Chicago Revolutionary Poets Brigade Facebook group.  He has been a regular at such city venues as the Guild Annex and Green Mill Tavern.  He has been featured on this blog before.  His work is often infused with music, especially jazz.  He also draws inspiration from the struggles of working people and the oppressed.  This piece was published recently in Blue Collar Review and Saving The World Anthology.

                                 In Pleasant Falls Earth Day


The thumb                                                   

snaps the camera

Marries images of

Man, woman

picked from the bar

at the Falls Inn

Each waiting for a table

In town for a conference

Both from out of state.

Wedding costumes

from town’s Image Bureau

Camera has captured

smiles on cue

Checks waiting

For “bride”

for “groom”.

Chemical banks

of the river

a mile from the Falls Inn

drying, the water is low.



Is anyone inspecting

plants at Industrial Park

built with a loan

from Chemical Bank?


from thinning forest

five year tax exemption

the dowery

for jobs vowed

Printing Press


bride and groom


for brochures


Image of “couple”                   


in front of

Falls Inn

Honeymoon suite


in front of

a bungalow

Looking at the hired smiles,

could anyone imagine

The groom impotent?

The bride dry?

Pleasant Falls children

with mutated genes?

Or agents in the blood stream

of any towns people

taking a decade or 2 from lives?

Corporate agents, lawyers

claiming levels

of designated chemical agents

in streams and ground


Jerry Pendergast

Walt Whitman literally should need no introduction.  This 19th Century poem takes a more personal and cosmic view reminding us of what Unitarian Universalists call the interdependent web of all existence.

                                  On the Beach at Night Alone

On the beach at night alone,

As the old mother sways her to and fro singing her husky song,

As I watch the bright stars shining, I think a thought of the clef of the universes and of the future.


A vast similitude interlocks all,

All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets,

All distances of place however wide,

All distances of time, all inanimate forms,

All souls, all living bodies though they be ever so different, or in different worlds,

All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes, the fishes, the brutes,

All nations, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages,

All identities that have existed or may exist on this globe, or any globe,

All lives and deaths, all of the past, present, future,

This vast similitude spans them, and always has spann’d,

And shall forever span them and compactly hold and enclose them.


Walt Whitman         

                     The Old Man.

And finally, another from that annoying Old Man.

The Fire Next Time is Now

August 27, 2019


For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.


           —2 Peter 3: 5-7 The Bible New King James Version


Okay, so Biblical Prophecy is not my thing.

Mumbo-jumbo, mystic-tristick bullshit.

It gives me a rash and a headache.


But this creeps me out, you know?

            Cripes look at the headlines!

                        Record Heat Wave Feeds Massive Australian Bush Fires

                        Wildfires Permanently Alter Alaska’s Forest Composition

                        Huge Wildfires in the Arctic and Far North Send a Planetary Warning

                        Siberia is Burning!

                        Lungs of the World Ablaze in the Amazon

                        More Fires Now Burning in Angola, Congo Than Amazon.


Maybe Peter, or whoever wrote in his name,

            was onto something after all.

            I don’t know exactly who is un-godly

—me probably, you maybe,

those guys over there,

but maybe the day of judgement and perdition

is on us all after all.


We failed somehow despite the warnings

            of a thousand prophets, Jeremiahs, and Cassandras

            who warned us over and over

            to do something before it’s too late.


Is it too late really?  We beg for answers from the Holy seers.

            Hear our plea

                        Al Gore

                        Neil deGrasse Tyson

                        Gagged scientists of NOAA and NASA

Greta Thunberg  and your children’s crusade.

                        Elders of the Alaskan Nunakauyarmiut Tribe


Can we wake up, you know, like Scrooge on Christmas morning

            fresh and new, our eyes wide open

            and throw open the shutters to buy the world

            a turkey and a second chance?


Probably not that easy.


But you know what’s worse?

            That Bible guy said no flood this time,

            but he was wrong—

            the oceans rise, the world sinks

            Fire and Flood

                        Fire and Flood

                                    Fire and Flood.


—Patrick Murfin

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