Heroes for Earthweal

They told me heroes were broad-chested,
brave. They told me heroes came
on dashing steeds, with magic swords,
to fight a final battle with a dazzling foe.

I’m finding now that heroes come
in different shapes and guises. My neighbour’s one –
handing out flowers, making smiles. I work
with many, keeping going, day after day.
A hero comes with mail, another stacks a shelf,
another steps into a house with smiles
and sunshine, and a plate of food,
a paper mask, a pair of gloves, and love.

Heroism’s something small
and every day. It’s special, but it’s nothing special.

Men brought up without women,
men brought up without families,
men told to button up, man up, step up,
shut up, shut down, calm down –
men taught to deny themselves –
told us that heroes did all that. They built up
heroes in their own stone image –
heroes in uniform, heroes who flung themselves
headlong into the battle –
manned up, stepped up, shut up –
and we believed them.
We lived inside the battle story
for too long. We built walls,
buttressed our lives, shut up, shut down, shut out.

There are things that penetrate –
the smallest things. Viruses, glyphosates, fears.
We didn’t even notice them,
until we were surrounded.

We need new heroes. We are spotting them –
they are the ones with shining threads,
connecting them to others. They’re the ones
nurturing their children, teaching love
and laughter. All those old stories. Feeding us.
The ones finding new ways to love,
new ways to show their kindness. Spinning
new threads. We need connection now.

A poem about heroes for Brendan at Earthweal. If you haven’t been over there, check it out. It’s a space to think about our bruised and beautiful planet, to think about ways of changing things. Every week I think “I have nothing to say about this”, and then gradually something emerges that feels urgent and important. I’m not sure I say anything terribly new, but a chorus of voices saying the same thing makes a loud, compelling noise. We put our words out there, and they make unexpected journeys, journeys we will never know.

9 thoughts on “Heroes for Earthweal

  1. I’m the same, Sarah, thinking I have nothing to say and then suddenly finding I do. I agree that a chorus of voices saying the same thing makes a loud, compelling noise that does get through somehow.
    I like your hero neighbour who hands out flowers. Our postman is a hero too, he always gives me a wave and a smile through the window. My sister-in-law is a district nurse, also a hero – the government completely failed to source PPE for her, and she had to find her own. The pivot lines work well, swinging to the heroes everyone seems to forget. And I love that you included the heroes with shining threads connecting them to others, the nurturers and teachers, right at the end so no-one will forget them.

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    • I’ve also had 2 poems taken up over the last few weeks that emerged out of Earthweal poems – revised, refined, fiddled around with. So I do think there’s something really interesting and maybe important happening here, and happening in my brain with these prompts. My neighbour just mentioned in passing that whenever she goes to the supermarket she buys a small bunch of flowers for the person on the checkout. She reckons they have a hard time dealing with disgruntled customers. Such a sweet thing to do.

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  2. I love the singing of unsung heroes in this – and small enemies
    “the smallest things. Viruses, glyphosates, fears.
    We didn’t even notice them,
    until we were surrounded.”
    and of course the shining threads connecting too. Beautiful

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  3. I am so happy you three hang in at earthweal. I do feel it is important, a place to gather with others who already understand the big picture. So many dont want, or feel it is too uncomfortable, to face our situation. Your poems always inspire me, Sarah, because you find that positive spin that eludes me, after 40 years of talking about and activism for climate change that saw too little progress. The last straw for me was 2016, the four years since have weighed my spirit down and I hope this ends at the next election. We live in hope. I agree, the times we are living through are showing us the everyday heroes. We see the best and worst of human nature at such times. Thankfully much more of the best than the other.

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  4. What good are men any more? Our poor Y chromosome has withered on the branch so far all we have left is the testy part of the testosterone – sterile action figures who haven’t a clue. Ah well. — probably not much can be done to salvage us, but the hero is an archetype without true gender — nobility of spirit, courage and clear action, humility and grace especially in the thickets of the difficult, those are all things we can aspire to and celebrate. But I really feel bad for boys trying to grow up, especially when their role models are such fools. Thanks for bringing this to earthweal.

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  5. I like the scope, the reach and the humanity of this, Sarah and I agree with you about earthweal, these prompts stick in my head and sometimes a poem emerges after a day or two. Congratulations by the way on your publication in Irisi, well done…JIM

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