time bending / tongue / entwine / the betwixt

In honor of Earth Day, we invited four poets to collaborate on a new poem that conveys our interconnected struggle for environmental justice. The collaborative poem is inspired by Cecilia Vicuña's ongoing “Quipu of Encounters” workshop series and her poem "Three Fragments of Instan." This collaborative poem project is presented in partnership with the Guggenheim Museum.

When the wind frenzied up a snow globe
of petals, I was picnic-blanket easy, delighted
by a congregation of trees celebrating the newlyweds of spring,
delighted by life’s parade throwing its confetti down. But you know
I knew what was coming. We all did. Forgive us:
we were entwined, we were betwixt, time was not yet bent.
Nevertheless, I was unable to resist tipping my head back to catch those petals
on my tongue, to catch those petals as if they were snowflakes
though I knew they were not snowflakes, not at all, but blossoms
blasted apart far too soon in a season that had forgotten how to be cold.

—Nickole Brown

/ / /

Can seasons forget? Do trees celebrate?—It’s the eternal problem, isn’t it,
how ego blossoms in paraphrase, propagates our deep, deciduous need

to seed the severed world of object-things with our image? To spread
out gingham sheets and claim the cast of green shade for ourselves,

to think green thoughts under? To delight in the swan-shaped pedal
boats drifting by, aimlessly? But who among us, in the blank face

of certain unknowns, hasn’t cleaved to what they know they know?
To self-likeness, taxonomy, to god, guilt, or grace, to hands forced

forward by the mainspring’s spiral torsion? Wait long enough
and white petals, even, will melt on your tongue. But patience is so difficult.

—J.P. Grasser

/ / /

I have cleaved to what I know: the tempered regularity
of falling leaves, the speed with which bulbs blast,

or cicadas, buzzing, spring from the dampened earth.
This year, though, tulips came early. Already the daffodils

bury their heads in the dirt. But here I am, in a winter
of the mind, surrounded by surplus capital, an excess

of heat, which lifts green things from their beds.
Between one settled reality, then, and the blossoming

possibility of another, I bask in eddies of unseasonal light,
eying the spiral turn of the plum tree’s gentle confetti. 

—John James

/ / /

Truth is a leviathan:
even its monstrous size
can be buried in dark waters
until we learn to doubt its existence.

Still, I open my eyes
to the husk of morning,
draw my name in the sand
and defy the rising tide.

—Ariel Francisco


Copyright © 2024 by the poets. Used with permission of the poets.