Friday, May 21, 2010

The Gulf

The gulf between care for our earth and thoughtless use of its vast resources couldn't be more starkly portrayed than in the current British Petroleum mis-statement and consequent mis-handling of its catastrophic undersea oil spill. We have placed the future of what we CAN control of the planet's future in the hands of people for whom its welfare is not the first priority.

water pictures by

There are so many aspects of the planet's health that are beyond our control. It would be good to do what we can to attend to those aspects we can control. Which put me in mind of this poem of mind, first published in Poetry Magazine:


In Tadepallegudem, it’s raining scarlet
and teal again. Villagers saunter through orange
fields and do not ask why their clothes are sky-stained
and their crops melt in rainbow rain. They stop
at the chai walla, heads waggling No, no while they mouth
Yes, yes. They would not believe that a meteor's
dust could gush fuchsia. In Tadepallegudem,
they step around stones of belief,
unlike the man at Cal Tech who peers
into the Big Bang and shrugs,
pondering the hand or blunder that set the spin.
Down the hall, a professor pens a prize-winner
that says over and over, I will not admit
what I cannot see. His monolith will not be jarred
loose by a sky splashing puce.



The earth’s burners heat up. Poles shift
right side up. A man calculates the speed
of a butterfly’s wing as it churns the air,
triggers a cooling that lifts warm into cold
jet stream, whirls up sea spouts to touch down
off the coast of Brittany. He leans back
in his chair and frogs rain around him.
In Tadepallegudem, umbrellas open
even on sunny days. Pounding out
the inexplicable stains on rocks,
living under constant wonder’s no great strain.



In Tuvalo, high is low. Islands sink as stratosphere drinks
in warm oceanic gulps. Tuvaluans agree to go to New Zealand
if flight is a must. Ocean’s rise is no surprise
to the man who charts Pacific waves for New York,
Beijing and Delhi, where they simply turn the page.
Katabatic wind, fire storm, chromatic rain and glacier melt,
noted every Saturday in Earth Week. If a plan exists,
is it from the hand of blunder or wonder?
In Tadepallegudem, no one thinks of extinction's
brink, nor in Cuzco, where they find that snakes
now writhe in mud slides, earth now a conga line.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

IOU: New Writing on Money

I just got a free book from Concord Free Press, which touts its new publishing model as "generosity-based publishing." You ask for a free book and agree to donate money (unspecified amount) to any charity or person of your choosing. They report having raised more than $134,000 for worthy causes so far. How they're funded is a mystery, as is who's behind the scenes, how books are selected, etc. Most intriguing.

Naturally, as a poet and a fundraiser and a one-time accountant, I'm interested in this new model, and so I selected a literary book about money as my first free book. Some good poems on the topic surprised me: Denise Duhamel's "Loaded," Ruth Ellen Kocher's "Professor Lacy N. Igga Looks Up the Word Parasomnia," and Hailey Leithauser's "Having Discovered a Windfall by the Side of the Road, the Cautious Miser Is Visited by the Angel of Profligacy" (which should win a prize for the title alone).

I've written a few poems on money, but found it a tough topic for poetry. Here's mine, first published in qarrtsiluni:


A pip, a tip, once a minute
of parking, its worth snipped,
a coin less in diameter or value
than a nickel yet brighter, warm sun
to a five-cent moon — so how did it roll
down to ground level, flat
disc lying unretrieved on streets,
forlorn beside the parking meters
it can no longer feed?

I’m penny-wise and foolish
about artifacts, keep penny bowls
on bookshelves, as if the penny and I, now middle-
aged, had grown up in the same town,
walked the same streets, rolled to the beach
on Saturdays. The cent has diminished
though not dimmed, while I’ve dimmed
and enlarged my diameter.
It’s natural between old friends, the change
of places. We might be change
made from the same register,
sad breakdowns of a haughty dime
taxed to the minutest, rendered
and reckoned as beyond Caesar’s interest, left
to the heart’s differently hued
apportion and shine.