On this morning before Earth Day, I offer this ominous psalm by Lo Kwa Mei-en
from her 2015 collection, Yearling.
“The Extinction Diaries: Psalm”
The world is another cage I cannot map. Once
emptied, the ocean will sit down, a love song inside it:
a black fish mouthing Hallelujah to the walls, opening
itself on them for good. Glory being, beloved,
our mane was dynamite. We fell asleep with a jet
strand swallowed and for life couldn’t light it. Not like
a gun in the hand. The lands of what cannot illumine
grow deep and a mouth roots then uproots like an
ant-engined hill. Nothing eats. To know what once could
is to know why. No river shatters past as fed as a city
of straight lines and no tender enters the fault
of our body. From its deeps, the white coin of vertebrae
in a bowl of hips tells the future. May the meek inherit
something gorgeous. May I. May a geography of
defiant climes shock the ocean’s flesh, its fish many
thunders—may they ring true. May we. May
I run in our sleep, keeping up and more with kings
too great to see in the dark. Too great to see grow
the tides, each made in the image of a shut door.
Behind, god, a school of tongues, singing the keys.
I had the pleasure of seeing the incredible writer, farmer, and environmental activist Wendell Berry (1934-) last night, speaking on everything from land use to the necessary distinction between optimism and hope. At the beginning of the evening, he read this manifesto of a poem, and the images have been rolling around in my mind ever since:
Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.