Monday, April 22, 1996

EARTH DAY (rivers)

I've never written about how
when you're pressed for time,
all your favorite clothes are in a heap
on the bottom on the bathroom floor.
And you've got unexpectedly guests at the door
and there is no back exit, and you're naked.
And you've run out of allergy pills,
your eyes are twin fountains of grief,
and youth is but a drink from the past.
And how all those old people on beaches
in Florida glowing like angry poppies,
are called snowbirds, and for some reason,
the weather is nuts. it's raining again.

I've never written about
how all words are related to each other
as if on a string, and they pull at you,
demanding equal time, and you're left speechless
because in the beginning was logos.

Logic has little to do with the word.
How come logic and art are separated at the hip
by two halves of the bicameral brain,
and that imperfect tunnel channeling them.
Sometimes the traffic jam leaves my words
stranded on the shore, pressing against your eyes
waiting for your lips to liberate them from
the secret reservoir of the blank page.

I've yet to write about way
the horizon line always has one vanishing point,
where all straight lines seem to meet up
on another dimensional plane.
As if getting in the last word in an argument.
I've yet to unlock the secret
of the Indian in the cupboard.
How we say the word cupboard,
the word cup is lost
in the broken crockery of the past.

What about coincidences,
like how a wild fire broke out
on the 10-year anniversary of Chernobyl,
releasing radioactive isotopes back into the air,
the Ukrainian still using the reactor
even though Ground Zero spread 15 miles
in every direction. The children of Belaerus,
in cancer wards, like wise and old men
heated out of their childhood by an angry light
burning graphite fire that raged for weeks,
making me realize the earth is a fragile flower
perhaps plucked too soon, one April
nearly 10 years ago, today,
and unseasonable rain falling,
I marveled how the unstoppable isotopes
knew no boundaries, save lead,
we could hold pencils over our heads,
but there's no longer lead in them,
and the covered porch at the school,
was a useless umbrella.

How that day lead me to the Ukraine
where I found myself eyeing dinner,
as they eyed me back, two carp
in an enameled washpan mouthed small o's,
as my host mother proudly showed me the day's catch.
I had to ask her how far were we from Chernobyl,
where they came from, the Dnieper River,
that drains the watersheds of Chernobyl.
She threw those fish in the trash,
still alive and gasping for water.
My fear did little for the concept of détente.
And the Soviet police followed me everywhere.

How come I've never read about the length of rivers,
the cradle of the Indus,1800 miles,
or Saraswati's knowledge
the Yangtze, and the Yellow River's 2903 silted miles,
where secretive river dolphins hide from extinction,
the Nile 4160 miles, despite the Aswan Dam,
the Amazon 4880 miles, that drains the Andes,
the mighty Mississippi , Old Man River at 3740 miles,
I have seen it at floodstage from the air,
devouring fields and cities with a relentless hunger,
and I've crossed that divide at Graceland.

And closer to home,
the American River, all 300 miles.
One summer I rafted down it,
And the Sacramento River, 320 miles,
how we silted it up searching for gold,
and the Russian River, 100 miles, home river,
Slavianka, Slavic maiden, or Snake River in Pomo,
most of its length I've hiked, swam or canoed.
All those rivers taking us to the sea,
thalatta, our mother, the sea.

With input from Jake Berry and Jack Foley
Earth Day, 22 April, 1996

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