Who can utter the poignance of all that is constantly threatened

As wildfire smoke covers so much of California in an eerie, devastating haze, I can’t help but think of this Denise Levertov poem that I posted years ago. Tonight I am holding not only this ever-fragile paradise I call home and all its people close to my heart but also the threatened landscapes and communities disintegrating across the world every day.


“In California: Morning, Evening, Late January”

Pale, then enkindled,
summits of palm and pine,

the dew
scripture of

Soon the roar
of mowers
cropping the already short
grass of lawns,

men with long-nozzled
cylinders of pesticide
poking at weeds,
at moss in cracks of cement,

and louder roar
of helicopters off to spray
vineyards where braceros try
to hold their breath,

and in the distance, bulldozers, excavators,
babel of destructive construction.

Banded by deep
oakshadow, airy
shadow of eucalyptus,

miner’s lettuce,
tender, untasted,
and other grass, unmown,
no green more brilliant.

Fragile paradise.

. . . .

At day’s end the whole sky,
vast, unstinting, flooded with transparent
tint of wisteria,
over the malls, the industrial parks,
the homes with the lights going on,
the homeless arranging their bundles.

. . . .

Who can utter
the poignance of all that is constantly
threatened, invaded, expended

and constantly
persists in beauty,

tranquil as this young moon
just risen and slowly
drinking light
from the vanished sun.

Who can utter
the praise of such generosity
or the shame?


May the meek inherit something gorgeous.

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.