Balloon, then papier mâché.
Gray paint, blue and turquoise, green,
a clouded world with fishing line attached
to an old light, original to the house, faux brass
chipping, discolored, an ugly thing. What must
the people of this planet think, the ground
knobby and dry, the oceans blue powder,
the farmland stiff and carefully maintained.
Sometimes they spin one direction,
then back again. How the coyotes howl.
How the people learn to love, regardless.
The majesty of their own towering hearts.
The mountains, which they agree are beautiful.
And the turquoise—never has there been
such a color, breaking into precious
and semi-precious stones. They build houses
from them, grand places of worship,
and there is much to worship. Look up,
for instance. Six suns. The wonder of it.
First one, then the next, eclipsing
the possibility that their world hangs by a thread.

Copyright © 2015 by Karen Skolfield. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

When his ship first came to Australia,
Cook wrote, the natives
continued fishing, without looking up.
Unable, it seems, to fear what was too large to be comprehended.

—2004

Originally published in After (HarperCollins, 2006); all rights reserved. Copyright © by Jane Hirshfield. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

is a black shambling bear
ruffling its wild back and tossing
mountains into the sea

is a black hawk circling 
the burying ground circling the bones
picked clean and discarded

is a fish black blind in the belly of water
is a diamond blind in the black belly of coal

is a black and living thing 
is a favorite child
of the universe
feel her rolling her hand
in its kinky hair
feel her brushing it clean

Lucille Clifton, "the earth is a living thing" from Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton. Copyright © 1991 by Lucille Clifton. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd., boaeditions.org.

I gaze at the Pacific and don’t expect
to ever see the heads on Easter Island,

though I guess at sunlight rippling
the yellow grasses sloping to shore;

yesterday a doe ate grass in the orchard:
it lifted its ears and stopped eating

when it sensed us watching from
a glass hallway—in his sleep, a veteran

sweats, defusing a land mine.
On the globe, I mark the Battle of

the Coral Sea—no one frets at that now.
A poem can never be too dark,

I nod and, staring at the Kenai, hear
ice breaking up along an inlet;

yesterday a coyote trotted across
my headlights and turned his head

but didn’t break stride; that’s how
I want to live on this planet:

alive to a rabbit at a glass door—
and flower where there is no flower.

Copyright © 2015 by Arthur Sze. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 10, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Some did not want to alter the design
when the failure message
said massive problem with oxygen.
Some wanted to live full tilt with risk.

By then we were too weak for daily chores:
feeding chickens, hoeing yams,
calibrating pH this and N2 that . . .
felt like halfway summiting Everest.

We didn’t expect the honeybees
to die. Glass blocked the long-wave
light that guides them.
Farm soil too rich in microbes

concrete too fresh ate the oxygen.
We had pressure problems,
recalibrating the sniffer.  Bone tired
I reread Aristotle by waning light.

Being is either actual or potential. 
The actual is prior to substance. 
Man prior to boy, human prior to seed,
Hermes prior to chisel hitting wood. 

I leafed through Turner’s England,
left the book open at Stonehenge. 
A shepherd struck by lightning lies dead,
dog howling, several sheep down too.

The painter gave gigantic proportion
to sulphurous god rimmed clouds
lightning slashing indigo sky
while close at hand lie fallen stones

dead religion, pages dusty
brown leaf shards gathering
in the gutter yet I cannot turn the page
wondering what I am and when

in the story of life my life is taking place.   
Now what.  No shepherd. No cathedral.
How is it then that I read love
in pages that lie open before me?

Copyright © 2015 by Alison Hawthorne Deming. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 23, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Black horizons, come up.
Black horizons, kiss me.
That is all; so many lies; killing so cheap;
babies so cheap; blood, people so cheap; and
land high, land dear; a speck of the earth
costs; a suck at the tit of Mother Dirt so
clean and strong, it costs; fences, papers,
sheriffs; fences, laws, guns; and so many
stars and so few hours to dream; such a big
song and so little a footing to stand and
sing; take a look; wars to come; red rivers
to cross.
Black horizons, come up.
Black horizons, kiss me.

This poem is in the public domain.

Earth took of earth earth with ill;
Earth other earth gave earth with a will.
Earth laid earth in the earth stock-still:
Then earth in earth had of earth its fill.



Erthe Toc of Erthe

Erthe toc of erthe erthe wyth woh,
erthe other erthe to the earthe droh,
erthe leyde erthe in erthene throh,
tho hevede erthe of erthe erthe ynoh.

ca 1000, United Kingdom

We don't see the ocean, not ever, but in July and August 
when the worst heat seems to rise from the hard clay
of this valley, you could be walking through a fig orchard
when suddenly the wind cools and for a moment
you get a whiff of salt, and in that moment you can almost
believe something is waiting beyond the Pacheco Pass,
something massive, irrational, and so powerful even
the mountains that rise east of here have no word for it.

You probably think I'm nuts saying the mountains
have no word for ocean, but if you live here
you begin to believe they know everything.
They maintain that huge silence we think of as divine,
a silence that grows in autumn when snow falls
slowly between the pines and the wind dies
to less than a whisper and you can barely catch
your breath because you're thrilled and terrified.

You have to remember this isn't your land.
It belongs to no one, like the sea you once lived beside
and thought was yours. Remember the small boats
that bobbed out as the waves rode in, and the men
who carved a living from it only to find themselves
carved down to nothing. Now you say this is home,
so go ahead, worship the mountains as they dissolve in dust,
wait on the wind, catch a scent of salt, call it our life.

Copyright © 2009 by Philip Levine. Reprinted from News of the World with the permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

              Thirty seconds of yellow lichen.

Thirty seconds of coil and surge,
            fern and froth, thirty seconds
                         of salt, rock, fog, spray.

                                                               Clouds
moving slowly to the left―

            A door in a rock through which you could see

                                      ―

another rock,
                       laved by the weedy tide.

            Like filming breathing―thirty seconds

of tidal drag, fingering
             the smaller stones
                          down the black beach―what color

             was that, aquamarine?
Starfish spread

                         their salmon-colored hands.

                                     ―

            I stood and I shot them.

I stood and I watched them
            right after I shot them: thirty seconds of smashed sea
                         while the real sea

                            thrashed and heaved―

           They were the most boring movies ever made.
I wanted

                       to mount them together and press play.

                                     ―

           Thirty seconds of waves colliding.

Kelp

           with its open attitudes, seals
                        riding the swells, curved in a row

                        just under the water―

                                    the sea,
            over and over.
                                    Before it’s over.
 

Copyright @ 2014 by Dana Levin. Used with permission of the author.