Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Love in the Time of Extinction
If desire causes suffering then the world
is burning to death with it:
millions of square miles on fire
the mountains shedding their glacial mantles
into the sea, the proud crest of the planet
like a child's melting ice-cream cone
dropped to the ground.
Simple. So simple that same child could work it out:
we want, and want, and want
cellphones and cars and green lawns and daily showers
and beef and vacations and new jeans and televisions
and the earth has given us all this and more
They say (those who know)
that we have reached critical die-off
which is the point of no return.
Here is a partial list of loss:
there will never be another Zanzibar Leopard
--we can thank agriculture for that--
and the wings of the Dutch Alcon Blue Butterfly
have ceased their soft, delicate dusting
in the spent grasses of the Netherlands.
If you've always wanted to follow the trail
of the Vine Raiatea Tree Snail--well then
you are out of luck; it has vanished
along with the Aldabra Banded Snail.
If you are not alarmed by this, it is safe to say
you are not a hedgehog, or a toad. But listen:
can you hear the soft and weighted tread
of the Western Black Rhinoceros? No?
You never will again.
Nor the Javan Tiger's slinking shadow
falling on a jungle path
nor the call of the Dusky Seaside Sparrow--
what song would she have sung today?
There is no way to know
and here we must note the particular effect
of losing not only a species
but the song of the species:
mating calls and mothering-calls
fighting songs and cries of joy
entire musical compositions intended
to communicate the depths and heights
of the experience of being a bird
or a leopard or a rhinoceros
or a snail (do snails sing? are you certain?)
or a hedgehog
or a human being.
But before we go extinct, as we certainly will
I must take one composition off the endangered list
because when you call me later across
all the thousands of miles of scorched and suffering
earth between us
this smoke and destruction desire has wrought
I want to sing you a new song:
the wild, unfettered anthem my heart begins to shout
every time you speak my name.