Most likely, you think we hated the elephant,
the golden toad, the thylacine and all variations
of whale harpooned or hacked into extinction.

It must seem like we sought to leave you nothing
but benzene, mercury, the stomachs
of seagulls rippled with jet fuel and plastic. 

You probably doubt that we were capable of joy,
but I assure you we were.

We still had the night sky back then,
and like our ancestors, we admired
its illuminated doodles
of scorpion outlines and upside-down ladles.

Absolutely, there were some forests left!
Absolutely, we still had some lakes!

I’m saying, it wasn’t all lead paint and sulfur dioxide.
There were bees back then, and they pollinated
a euphoria of flowers so we might
contemplate the great mysteries and finally ask,
“Hey guys, what’s transcendence?”   

And then all the bees were dead.

Copyright © 2017 by Matthew Olzmann. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 14, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Most likely, you think we hated the elephant,
the golden toad, the thylacine and all variations
of whale harpooned or hacked into extinction.

It must seem like we sought to leave you nothing
but benzene, mercury, the stomachs
of seagulls rippled with jet fuel and plastic. 

You probably doubt that we were capable of joy,
but I assure you we were.

We still had the night sky back then,
and like our ancestors, we admired
its illuminated doodles
of scorpion outlines and upside-down ladles.

Absolutely, there were some forests left!
Absolutely, we still had some lakes!

I’m saying, it wasn’t all lead paint and sulfur dioxide.
There were bees back then, and they pollinated
a euphoria of flowers so we might
contemplate the great mysteries and finally ask,
“Hey guys, what’s transcendence?”   

And then all the bees were dead.

Copyright © 2017 by Matthew Olzmann. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 14, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

In the middle of the wood it starts,
Then over the wall and the meadow
And into our ears all day. But it departs—
Sometimes—like a shadow.

There is an instant when it grows
Too weak to climb a solid fence,
And creeps to find a crack. But the wind blows,
Scattering it hence

In whimpering fragments like the leaves
That every autumn drives before.
Then rain again in the hills—and the brook receives
It home with a roar.

From the middle of the wood again,
Over the wall and the meadow,
It comes one day to the minds of waiting men
Like a shadow.

This poem is in the public domain.

               after Matthew Olzmann 

Oh button, don’t go thinking we loved pianos
more than elephants, air conditioning more than air.

We loved honey, just loved it, and went into stores
to smell the sweet perfume of unworn leather shoes.

Did you know, on the coast of Africa, the Sea Rose
and Carpenter Bee used to depend on each other?

The petals only opened for the Middle C their wings
beat, so in the end, we protested with tuning forks.

You must think we hated the stars, the empty ladles,
because they conjured thirst. We didn’t. We thanked

them and called them lucky, we even bought the rights
to name them for our sweethearts. Believe it or not,

most people kept plants like pets and hired kids
like you to water them, whenever they went away.

And ice! Can you imagine? We put it in our coffee
and dumped it out at traffic lights, when it plugged up

our drinking straws. I had a dog once, a real dog,
who ate venison and golden yams from a plastic dish.

He was stubborn, but I taught him to dance and play
dead with a bucket full of chicken livers. And we danced

too, you know, at weddings and wakes, in basements
and churches, even when the war was on. Our cars

we mostly named for animals, and sometimes we drove
just to drive, to clear our heads of everything but wind.

Copyright © 2020 J.P. Grasser. Originally published in American Poets vol. 58. Distributed by the Academy of American Poets. 

O Nature! I do not aspire
To be the highest in thy quire,—
To be a meteor in the sky,
Or comet that may range on high;
Only a zephyr that may blow
Among the reeds by the river low;
Give me thy most privy place
Where to run my airy race.

In some withdrawn, unpublic mead
Let me sigh upon a reed,
Or in the woods, with leafy din,
Whisper the still evening in:
Some still work give me to do,—
Only—be it near to you!

For I’d rather be thy child
And pupil, in the forest wild,
Than be the king of men elsewhere,
And most sovereign slave of care:
To have one moment of thy dawn,
Than share the city’s year forlorn.

This poem is in the public domain.

Rebalance: Greenhouse Gases (CO2,N2O, CH4, H2O vapor) with
                                                                                           photosynthesis.
Recognize: Plants cool by evaporation, ground cover, shade, and
                                                                                              precipitation
Replant: Lawns with Victory Gardens, as in world war past.
Regenerate: Biodiverse farms with trees-flowers-herbs-pasture-animals.
Restore: Carbon out of air and back into soils, where it belongs.
Replace: Industrial monocultures with regenerative permacultures.
Revisit: Food production by many small farms, not a few megafarms.
Reject: Fossil fuel-based pesticides, plastics, and propaganda.
Rethink: Healthy ecosystems and economies for all life.
Relocalize: Slow food, slow lifestyles, and slow economies.
Rekindle: Simple and good, nature and nurture, feeling over thinking.
Refeel: Kinship with pivoting sunflowers and starry fireflies.
Revive: Wildness, woodlands, wetlands, wildlife, waterways.
Reestablish: Health of bees, butterflies, birds, bats, beetles.
Respect: Work of insects, both pollinating and recomposing life.
Remember: Everything is connected.
               Everyone lives downstream and downwind.
Reimagine: Deep conservation, cooperation, and community.
Rebalance: Nature with nature. Mimic her. Sense her. Be her.

Copyright © 2020 Louise Maher-Johnson. From All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis (One World, 2020) edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson. Used with the permission of the editors.

love between us is
speech and breath. loving you is
a long river running.

From Like the Singing Coming Off the Drums. Copyright © 1998 by Sonia Sanchez. Used with the permission of Beacon Press. 

let me be yo wil
derness let me be yo wind
blowing you all day.

From Like the Singing Coming Off the Drums. Copyright © 1998 by Sonia Sanchez. Used with the permission of Beacon Press.

I had a beautiful dream I was dancing with a tree.

                                                                   —Sandra Cisneros

Some things on this earth are unspeakable:
Genealogy of the broken—
A shy wind threading leaves after a massacre,
Or the smell of coffee and no one there—

Some humans say trees are not sentient beings,
But they do not understand poetry—

Nor can they hear the singing of trees when they are fed by
Wind, or water music—
Or hear their cries of anguish when they are broken and bereft—

Now I am a woman longing to be a tree, planted in a moist, dark earth
Between sunrise and sunset—

I cannot walk through all realms—
I carry a yearning I cannot bear alone in the dark—

What shall I do with all this heartache?

The deepest-rooted dream of a tree is to walk
Even just a little ways, from the place next to the doorway—
To the edge of the river of life, and drink—

I have heard trees talking, long after the sun has gone down:

Imagine what would it be like to dance close together
In this land of water and knowledge. . .

To drink deep what is undrinkable.

From Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 2015 by Joy Harjo. Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

During our protest at the refineries, our friend R tells us there are bugs in the oil in the earth-colored vats at Valero & Shell, tiny slave bacteria changing sulfides, ammonia, hydrocarbons & phenol into levels of toxin the mixture can tolerate, & then we consider how early tired stars gave way to carbon molecules a short time after the start of time & now carbon makes its way in all life as the present tense makes its way in poetry, the sludge in the vats where the hydrocarbonoclastic bacteria break things down to unending necessities


                            of     which Dante writes
 
                                  of           the middle of hell
                                                 
                           light     where no light is

 

R says his friend who tends the bugs for the company feels tenderly toward his mini-sludge-eaters, they are his animals, he takes their temperature & stirs them & so on. We pause to think of it. Such small creatures. At the beginning of life the cells were anaerobic, ocean vents of fire, archaea, then they loved air. In the axis of time there are triple moments when you look back, forward or in. As a child you were asked to perform more than you could manage. Your need was not symmetrical. It is impossible to repay the laborers who work so hard. R describes his friend’s work as devotional. The bacteria do not experience hurt or the void but their service is uneven & that is why i protest.

From Extra Hidden Life, among the Days (Wesleyan University Press, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Brenda Hillman. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.

After a century, humpbacks migrate
again to Queens. They left
due to sewage and white froth

banking the shores from polychlorinated-
biphenyl-dumping into the Hudson
and winnowing menhaden schools.

But now grace, dark bodies of song
return. Go to the seaside—

Hold your breath. Submerge.
A black fluke silhouetted
against the Manhattan skyline.

Now ICE beats doors
down on Liberty Avenue
to deport. I sit alone on orange

A train seats, mouth sparkling
from Singh’s, no matter how
white supremacy gathers

at the sidewalks, flows down
the streets, we still beat our drums
wild. Watch their false-god statues

prostrate to black and brown hands.
They won’t keep us out
though they send us back.

Our songs will pierce the dark
fathoms. Behold the miracle:

what was once lost
now leaps before you.

Copyright © 2017 by Rajiv Mohabir. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 16, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

                      I
Tell me, thou star, whose wings of light
Speed thee in thy fiery flight,
In what cavern of the night
	Will thy pinions close now?

                      II
Tell me, moon, thou pale and grey
Pilgrim of heaven’s homeless way,
In what depth of night or day
	Seekest thou repose now?

                     III
Weary wind, who wanderest
Like the world’s rejected guest,
Hast thou still some secret nest
	On the tree or billow?

This poem is in the public domain.