That summer, I became adept at finding beauty. I reached out for it – the clean-scrubbed nails on the nurse’s fingers. They were beautiful. The green flesh of an avocado; a spider’s web, caught in a hedge – all beauty. I held it like a trophy. I was so greedy for the loveliness of a child swinging in a playground, of a light caught in water of a bird turning on emptiness – I collected it, collated it, I held it tightly, threw it high, up into the air, like cherryblossom or confetti, like the light that shatters through the branches of a tree.
I am more than flattered to feature in this week’s earthweal prompt. Sherry reminds us to look for beauty, to show Mother Earth our joy.
This is our coastline. We have mapped it, claimed it with feet and eyes and breath: Skerne, where we saw the sparrow hawk, the place where the cormorants hang their black wings out to dry, the rounded cobbles, mapped with barnacles; and Sandymere, where I’ve seen fish thrown up and dancing in the cresting waves; and Westward Ho! – all fish and chips and ice-cream cones, and serious rock pools. Abbotsham and Peppercombe, Bucks Mills – deep valleys running to the sea, steep wooded walls and bluebells and a badger, once. Fairy Cross and Blackchurch Rock and Hartland Quay, where the sun drops heavily behind the sloping rock and all the cliffs are carved back, stripped to the deep past. Shipload Bay is seals and sandwiches – then Welcombe Mouth, Gull Rock and Crackington, and Sandymouth: Pebbles and sandy feet and salt-caked skin. Herring gulls and peregrines. The day the swallows came. The sea claws at the land here, seal-grey, scouring at angles, carving, carving. We have left our laughter here, our voices calling, calling. We’ve left our fading photographs and sea-bleached stories to be washed clean and worn away.
Yggdrasil is dying.
I’ve seen it –
branches bare as arms
reaching towards the sky.
Trees scream silently,
carrying the heavens
in their branches,
weaving the world
with their roots –
what happens now?
Yggdrasil fumbles, falls -
worlds drift away -
the gods slip into darkness -
frost and fire and flood -
and where will we find wisdom
now Yggdrasil is dying?
Whose arms will we hang in?
Brendan at earthweal invites us to write about trees. Here in Devon, our ash trees are dying. They are such a massive, ancient part of our landscape – the countryside round here is going to look very different in 5, 10 years’ time. I’ve been part of a project called the Ode to the Ash Tree Project. As an extra bonus, here’s a video of Katy Lee performing my poem Devon Ash. You CAN watch the video – just click where it says Watch on Vimeo.
I’m cat-stretched on the patio – cool drink, warm stones – and we’re star-watching. They ease gently into view, the ancient stars, deep history – and the satellites. We count them, idly. Will they be there forever, too? Is that how they will know – those aliens who come visiting in some far future – that we were here? The junk that circles this blue planet?
Half the world’s burning half is drowning. Half the world’s grieving, half’s just greeding – we are dancing on the edge, unseeing. It’s like we crave oblivion.
Our swollen bellies filling up with plastic, the ocean drowning in it. Half the time I’m sickened by myself, my own consuming – I try, I fail, I fall, I try again. Lay me out. Satellite me with my junk. How would you ever find me? How would I reach you?
It’s earthweal time, and this week we are all getting very excited about the Anthropocene Hymnal, brainchild of our very own Ingrid Wilson. She’s been very open about the amount of work needed to create an anthology, and I’m really looking forward to reading this. All profits will go to WWF. The cover is by Kerfe Roig, and it’s a thing of beauty. You can read Brendan’s interview with Ingrid here: https://earthweal.com/2021/07/19/a-poetry-that-does-not-compromise-the-anthropocene-hymnal/
I took it all with me the grief and the anger and the fear and she took it like she takes all our shit and she smoothed it the way she might smooth a stone or a piece of glass and she cradled me the way a mother might cradle a frightened child and her pulse was my pulse
and I left with it all the grief and the anger and the fear a little smoother now a little easier to carry