Thursday, August 13, 2015

Climate Poems from The Guardian.

Celebrating Thursday the 13th;
remembering Esther's birthday on the 5th;
Hiroshima on the 6th and Nagasaki on the 9th.
[Up, Down]


Each of these poems is a powerful evocation. One rises to salute the poets. It may be that there simply is no inverse analogue of "the force that through the green fuze" to bring it the next step. They suffer (I think) from Guardian presentation issues: cluttered with ads that are actually permitted to adjust line lengths (!); all manner of tags and extraneous meta-links - distractions; but no author biographies - another kind of distraction to be sure, but just slightly more ... acceptable.   Which is why I have taken several days to build this.
Parliament by Carol Ann Duffy  (from The Guardian).
Vertigo by Alice Oswald  (from The Guardian).
Mancunian Taxi-Driver Foresees His Death by Michael Symmons Roberts  (from The Guardian).
The Solace of Artemis by Paula Meehan  (from The Guardian).
Zoological Positivism Blues by Paul Muldoon  (from The Guardian).
Extinction by Jackie Kay  (from The Guardian).
Scratching for Metaphor in the Somerset Coalfields by Sean Borodale  (from The Guardian).
Cantre’r Gwaelod by Gillian Clarke  (from The Guardian).
Causeway by Matthew Hollis  (from The Guardian).
Doggerland by Jo Bell  (from The Guardian).
Storm by Michael Longley  (from The Guardian).
X by Imtiaz Dharker  (from The Guardian).
Last Snowman by Simon Armitage  (from The Guardian).
Turbines in January by Colette Bryce  (from The Guardian).
The Rhinoceros by Robert Minhinnick  (from The Guardian).
Silent Sea by Rachael Boast  (from The Guardian).
The Question by Theo Dorgan  (from The Guardian).
Still Life with Sea Pinks and High Tide by Maura Dooley  (from The Guardian).
Nostalgia by Don Paterson  (from The Guardian).
A Language of Change by David Sergeant  (from The Guardian).
California Dreaming by Lachlan Mackinnon  (from The Guardian).

Photograph, Cris Bouroncle: Word graffiti from Cop20 Lima climate change talks.

A poem a day: UK poet Carol Ann Duffy curates a series of 20 original poems (list).
An anthology of poetry on climate change, Carol Ann Duffy (article).

If information was all we needed, we’d have solved climate change by now. The scientific position has been clear for decades. Researchers have been waving a big red flag that has been impossible for our politicians to miss. Even Margaret Thatcher was giving speeches about global warming in 1988. So why have we made so little progress? Why do carbon emissions continue to rise seemingly inexorably?

Information, it seems, is not enough. Journalists have transmitted the warnings of scientists, but they have sometime focussed too much on the mini-controversies and the unimportant disagreements and not enough on the big picture. That has often left readers confused.

As the Guardian’s editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger explained when he introduced the paper’s Keep it in the Ground project, journalism struggles with climate change. It may be the biggest issue of our generation but we feel individually powerless or that solutions lie somewhere in the future. As Rusbridger says, journalism is a “rear view mirror”: good at telling you what has happened but not so good at explaining what’s round the next bend.

Climate change journalism can often also be full of institutional acronyms and difficult to digest science. The UNFCCC, Contracts for Difference, common but differentiated responsibilities and methane clathrates don’t say “read me” to most of us. What’s missing for the reader is often an emotional or aesthetic connection.

That is where this comes in. Alan Rusbridger asked me to curate a series of 20 poems that respond to the topic of climate change. The brief was to reach parts of the Guardian readers’ hearts and minds that the reporting, investigations, videos, podcasts and the rest had failed to reach.

The result is a series of new work from a variety of poets commissioned specially for the Keep it in the Ground project. The authors include Paul Muldoon, Michael Longley and Gillian Clarke and the poets have interpreted the work in many different ways. Jackie Kay writes from the heart of a general election in Planet Farage; Simon Armitage imagines the last snowman; Alice Oswald strikes a note of heart-stopping grief.

I hope that these poems will connect with people in surprising and different ways and, in the process, help them in some small way perhaps to see our world differently.

'Satiable curtiosity:   One wonders about this collectivity, it's inevitable. Presented in the order of their contribution to the series ...

Carol Ann Duffy a 60-ish Scot as the Poet LaureateAlice Oswald, British, almost 50;  Michael Symmons Roberts, British in his 50s with his own websitePaula Meehan, Irish, about 60;  Paul Muldoon Irish, mid 60s, also with a websiteJackie Kay a mid-fifties Scot;  Sean Borodale looks thirty-something;  Gillian Clarke, Welsh, almost 80 and with a websiteMatthew Hollis, British, mid 40s & websiteJo Bell looks 40-ish;  Michael Longley, Irish & soon be 80;  Imtiaz Dharker 60-ish Scot (born in Pakistan) & websiteSimon Armitage, British, early 50s with a websiteColette Bryce mid-40s Irish;  Robert Minhinnick and at his website, Welsh, mid-60s;  Rachael Boast, English about 40;  Theo Dorgan & website, Irish in his 60s;  Maura Dooley and at Bloodaxe, British of uncertain age - looks 50-ish;  Don Paterson a scot in his 50s;  David Sergeant, British (Cornish) looks thirty-something;  Lachlan Mackinnon, almost 60 Scot.

Tending towards middle age and beyond then - a substantive issue in this to be considered later perhaps. Many/mostly academics (understandably), some incest (ditto), a bit of gender-bending (some explicit, some not). In the correctitude schema, age & origin are likely as pro-scribed & pro-hibited as gender & colour, and yet hoi polloi bog-standard humans continue to wonder more-or-less openly about such qualities. ... Go figgure.

Parliament by Carol Ann Duffy.   'Parliament' features in Carol Anne Duffy’s 'The Bees' anthology.
Photograph, Daniel Beltra: Para, Brazil. February 11, 2012. Aerials south of Santarem and along the road BR163. Rainforest in the Tapajos River.

Then in the writers’ wood,
every bird with a name in the world
crowded the leafless trees,
took its turn to whistle or croak.
An owl grieved in an oak.
A magpie mocked. A rook
cursed from a sycamore.
The cormorant spoke:
Stinking seas
below ill winds. Nothing swims.
A vast plastic soup, thousand miles
wide as long, of petroleum crap.
A bird of paradise wept in a willow.
The jewel of a hummingbird shrilled
on the air.
A stork shawled itself like a widow.
The gull said
Where coral was red, now white, dead
under stunned waters.
The language of fish
cut out at the root.
Mute oceans. Oil like a gag
on the Gulf of Mexico.
A woodpecker heckled.
A vulture picked at its own breast.
Thrice from the cockerel, as ever.
The macaw squawked:
Nouns I know -
Rain. Forest. Fire. Ash.
Chainsaw. Cattle. Cocaine. Cash.
Squatters. Ranchers. Loggers. Looters.
Barons. Shooters.
A hawk swore.
A nightingale opened its throat
in a garbled quote.
A worm turned in the blackbird’s beak.
This from the crane:
What I saw - slow thaw
in permafrost broken terrain
of mud and lakes
peat broth seepage melt
methane breath.
A bat hung like a suicide.
Only a rasp of wings from the raven.
A heron was stone a robin blood
in the written wood.
So snow and darkness slowly fell
the eagle, history, in silhouette,
with the golden plover,
and the albatross
telling of Arctic ice
as the cold, hard moon calved from the earth.


Vertigo by Alice Oswald.
Photograph, Michael Christopher Brown: Rain.


May I shuffle forward and tell you the two minute life of rain

Starting right now lips open and lidless-cold all-seeing gaze

When something not yet anything changes its mind like me

And begins to fall

In the small hours

And the light is still a flying carpet

Only a little white between worlds like an eye opening after an operation

No turning back
each drop is a snap decision

A suicide from the tower-block of heaven

And for the next ten seconds
The rain stares at the ground

Sees me stirring here
As if sculpted in porridge

Sees the garden in the green of its mind already drinking

And the grass lengthening

Stalls ...

Maybe a thousand feet above me
A kind of yellowness or levity
Like those tiny alterations that brush the legs of swimmers
Lifts the rain a little to the left

No more than a flash of free-will
Until the clouds close their options and the whole melancholy air surrenders to
pure fear and ... falls

And I who live in the basement
one level down from the world
with my eyes to the insects with my ears to the roots listening

I feel them in my bones these dead straight lines
Coming closer and closer to my core

This is the sound this is the very floor
Where Grief and his Wife are living looking up


Mancunian Taxi-Driver Foresees His Death by Michael Symmons Roberts.
Photograph, Gueorgui Pinkhassov: Black cab at Bluewater commercial center, UK.

Mancunian Taxi-Driver Foresees His Death

On a radio show some self-help guru says
the earth will burn out in a hundred years
so treat each day as an eternity.

I am in a taxi when I hear this news,
airport-bound on the flyover
with my home town spread like a map below.

So my driver slams his foot to the floor,
and tells me that when the oil runs out
he will ship this cab to Arizona,

find the last fill-up on the planet,
drain the pump and power out into the wilderness
until the car coughs, then abandon it.

He will take from the dash this shot of his daughters,
his shark’s tooth on its chain,
then leave the radio with an audience

of skulls and vultures. I wind the window down
to catch my breath and ask what kind
of funeral is that?
Then him: It’s just a made-up one.

He drops me by the long-haul sign
and I give him a tip well over the odds.
As I stand with my bags it begins to rain.

A man smiles down from a floodlit billboard
– well insured, invested, sound –
which leaves me feeling heartsore, undefended.


The Solace of Artemis by Paula Meehan.
Photograph, Paul Souders: Canada, Manitoba, Churchill, Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) hides while submerged at edge of melting ice floe on summer evening.

The Solace of Artemis

For Catriona Crowe

I read that every polar bear alive has mitochondrial DNA
from a common mother, an Irish brown bear who once
roved out across the last ice age, and I am comforted.
It has been a long hot morning with the children of the machine,

their talk of memory, of buying it, of buying it cheap, but I,
memory keeper by trade, scan time coded in the golden hive mind
of eternity. I burn my books, I burn my whole archive:
a blaze that sears, synapses flaring cell to cell where

memory sleeps in the wax hexagonals of my doomed and melting comb.
I see him loping towards me across the vast ice field
to where I wait in the cave mouth, dreaming my cubs about the den,
my honied ones, smelling of snow and sweet oblivion.


Zoological Positivism Blues by Paul Muldoon.
Photograph, John Vink: Kampot zoo in Cambodia.

Zoological Positivism Blues

Come with me to the petting zoo
Its waist high turnstile gate
Come with me to the petting zoo
We’ll prove it’s not too late
For them to corner something new
They can humiliate
You know the zoo in Phoenix Park
Began with one wild boar
It’s in the zoo in Phoenix Park
We heard the lion roar
And disappointment made its mark
On the thorn forest floor

I guess we’ll hire two folding bikes
They rent them by the day
I guess we’ll hire two folding bikes
And you’ll meet me halfway
Why do orangutans look like
They’re wearing bad toupees?
The mealworm and the cricket snacks
The tender foliage
The mealworm and the cricket snacks
They’re still stored in a fridge
For when the polar bears start back
Across the old land bridge

You snuggled up to me at dawn
For fear I’d oversleep
You snuggled up to me at dawn
The tickets are dirt cheap
For outings in the carriage drawn

By two Merino sheep
So come with me to the petting zoo
And we’ll see how things stand
Come with me to the petting zoo
I’ll learn to take commands
I’m sure we’ll find something to do
If we’ve time on our hands


Extinction by Jackie Kay.
Photograph, Stuart Franklin: Greece. Megalopolis. Open caste lignite mine and excavator.

We closed the borders, folks, we nailed it.
No trees, no plants, no immigrants.
No foreign nurses, no Doctors; we smashed it.
We took control of our affairs. No fresh air.
No birds, no bees, no HIV, no Poles, no pollen.
No pandas, no polar bears, no ice, no dice.
No rainforests, no foraging, no France.
No frogs, no golden toads, no Harlequins.
No Greens, no Brussels, no vegetarians, no lesbians.
No carbon curbed emissions, no Co2 questions.
No lions, no tigers, no bears. No BBC picked audience.
No loony lefties, please. No politically correct classes.
No classes. No Guardian readers. No readers.
No emus, no EUs, no Eco warriors, no Euros,
No rhinos, no zebras, no burnt bras, no elephants.
We shut it down! No immigrants, no immigrants.
No sniveling-recycling-global-warming nutters.
Little man, little woman, the world is a dangerous place.
Now, pour me a pint, dear. Get out of my fracking face.


Scratching for Metaphor in the Somerset Coalfields by Sean Borodale.
Photograph, Don McPhee: One of the last canaries to be used in coal mines.

Scratching for Metaphor in the Somerset Coalfields

I am here, at the scene of a breaking;
broken bits, the metaphor of crushed paradise;
forested history of burning; a trace element
version of heritage. Ex-colliery lands
where the mines were part of the lung.


Radstock. 1794. The Fever of August.
Coleridge is crossing a boundary to his lyric field;
by counter-spirit. Under his feet
Old Pit is open: boys and men
mine its difficult, faulted, folded vein in the dark;
their candles opening limited allowance of light.
Today’s halo, our luminescence: the sun.
Bright flat walls; shadows in corners.
Under new roads, coal is unviable;
forces of earth press old roadways shut.
How much carbon dioxide has breathed through?
Carting boys have lived and gone.
Whole lives burned their taper in winning coal.
I make the metaphor: a word is a lump of coal,
locked-in energy of an example.
This piece is dense with experience:
as it burns, it disappears.
Its carbon harness, stripped off and bonded by fire
to oxygen and air: two wings of dioxide’s
light and buoyant paraphernalia.
This is combustion; earth to the exosphere.


Driving to Radstock from the north (Norwegian diesel)
you see the coalfields of Somerset.
Each year, time is a little shorter.
Coal still powers the electrical grid in part.
From minerals below, the Tropic of Cancer was landed;
Carboniferous club moss, horsetail’s waterlogged equatorial.
I put a light to dry tinder under the smudge of coal
and the peacock glint of its variants; solid, dark and old.
We will disappear; we will nuance, contribute, divulge
this agent into airs. I think we will disappear.
But where the fire happens, today and active;
closer, get closer.
Seas rise, glaciers melt, winds stricken.
It could be a voice, a skew in the song of billions;
coal’s articulate agency, the deformed, aerated lace
smouldering. A widow’s veil.

An action of striking, a tautology of flame:
I put the image of coal into metaphor;
smudging my fingers. Watch how it burns.
Watch how it flares, extrudes, goes grey.
Coal’s wild, iconic body.
Smoke deviates air to exist as fumes.
The tick of cinders, compounding fathoms.
Coal fuelled Portishead Power Station until 1973;
how did it burn fast enough? A chandelier is still electric.
At the wires’ ends coal is the landscape too hot to walk;
and it must be bituminous, it must be tarry,
forest trinkets fuming to the sun.


Mineralised swamp-forest unburdened of exact place;
exhausted, freighted, fractured. Its fossil detail,
drift-continent travelogue, brought up in carts.
The spoil tips are high.
Radstock today: its fluency its own.
Above, in the glitter-sphere of the ultra,
the heat-lake capture of air,
a damage persists: a weird register of shimmer.
Roads smoke into corridors, cities mirage.
Water grows acid, eats stone, heats air.
The pattern of material looks erratic. It’s like
wild-catting transcendence; the wayward
afterlife of ancient plants; a secondary imperfect parable
of power for metaphor, transport, speech through smoke.


Cantre’r Gwaelod by Gillian Clarke.

Cantre’r Gwaelod, (The Drowned Hundred) a legendary land lost under Cardigan Bay. The storms of February 2014 uncovered a petrified forest and evidence of ancient habitation from the beach at Borth.
Photograph, Keith Morris: Borth, Wales, UK.

Cantre’r Gwaelod

The morning after, the beach at Borth
is a graveyard, a petrified forest
thundered out of the sand by the storm,
drowned by the sea six thousand years ago
when the Earth was flat,
the horizon the edge of the world.

Remains of stilted walkways tell their story:
how they walked over water between trees,
longing for a lost land when the sea-god stole it,
how they shouldered their children and fled
with every creature that could crawl, run, fly,
till time turned truth to myth.

It’s how it will be as world turns reflective:
seas sated with meltwater, craving more;
a cliff-fall takes a bungalow; a monstrous
tide rips up a coastal train-track;
storm fells a thousand-year-old oak,
smashes a graceful seaside promenade.

Grieve for lost wilderness – for the lovesick salmon,
lured by sweet river-water sleeved in the salt,
homing upstream to spawn at the source
where it was born; for mating hares
in love with the March wind; for thermals
lifting a flaunt of red kites over the wood;

for bees mooning for honey in weedless fields;
for sleepy Marsh Fritillary butterflies
swarming the ancient bog of Cors Llawr Cwrt;
for the Brown Hairstreak in love with blackthorn
and the honeydew of aphids in the ash;
for the blackbird’s evening aria of possession;

for Earth’s intricate engineering, unpicked
like the flesh, sinews, bones of the mother duck
crushed on the motorway, her young
bewildered in a blizzard of feathers;
the balance of things undone by money,
the indifferent hunger of the sea.


Causeway by Matthew Hollis.
Photograph, Chris Steele-Perkins: G.B. Isle of Wight. Leaving Fishbourne on the car ferry to Portsmouth.


Beneath the rain-shadow and washed farmhouses,
in the service of the old shore,

we waited for the rising of the road,
the south lane laden in sand,

the north in residue and wrack;
the tide drawing off the asphalt

leaving our tyres little to disperse;
still, the water under wheel was forceful –

cleft between the chassis and the sea –
that clean division that the heart rages for.

But half way out the destination ceases to be the prize,
and what matters is the sudden breadth of vision:

to the north, a hovering headland,
to the south, a shoal of light –

the sea off-guarded, but hunting:
our licence brief, unlikely to be renewed.

Between mainland and island, in neither sway,
a nodding of the needle as the compass takes its weigh.


Doggerland by Jo Bell.

The land bridge connecting Great Britain to mainland Europe during the last Ice Age was gradually flooded by rising sea levels around 6,500 BC. It was discovered in 1931 when a Norfolk trawler dredged up an unexpected artefact.
Photograph, Stuart Franklin: Northumberland. Footprints on Newton Beach. 2004.


Out from Cromer in an easy sea, Pilgrim Lockwood
cast his nets and fetched up a harpoon.
Twelve thousand years had blunted not one barb.
An antler sharpened to a spike, a bony bread knife
from a time of glassy uplands and no bread:
Greetings from Doggerland, it said.

It’s cold. We answer ice with elk and mammoth, larks
and people like you. We are few. We hunt and eat and walk
and then move on, or fall. There are midges
but you can’t have everything. We fish or fowl;
we stalk carp-fat lagoons with ivory spears.
Our softened swamps are thick with eels. We sing.

Pilgrim felt his feet transparent on the deck, a sailor
treading uplands sixty fathoms back; saw nettled deer tracks
pooling, inch by sodden inch, into a whaler’s channel;
inlands islanded and highlands turned to shipping hazards,
fellsides lessened to a knuckled string; the sly brine
loosing peat from longbones, locking snails into the bedrock.

He turned for harbour, kissed the quoins of every house
and took to hillwalking. Time, he said, was water:
water, time. At neap tides he felt England’s backbone
shift and shiver; saw the caverns fill, the railways rivered
and the Pennine mackerel flashing through lead mines,
the last dove lifting from the summit of Lose Hill.


Storm by Michael Longley.
Photograph, Jean Gaumy: Italy, Valle Po.


Wind-wounded, lopsided now
Our mighty beech has lost an arm.
Sammy the demolition man
(Who flattened the poet’s house
In Ashley Avenue, its roof
Crashing into that homestead,
Then all the floors, poetry
And conversation collapsing)
Slices the sawdusty tons,
Wooden manhole-covers,
An imagined underground.
Beneath a leafy canopy
The poet, on my seventieth,
Gazed up through cathedral
Branches at constellations.
Where is he now? Together
We are counting tree-rings.


X by Imtiaz Dharker.
Photograph, Tim Hetherington: Angola. Luanda. May 2005. Woman carrying water from a water pump in a local musseque.


Hand shaking on the stop-cock, she looks
at the X, the warning cross,

the water-tap unlocked, its padlock cracked.
Breath hacks in the throat, Check your back.

Turn it on and an anxious mutter swells
to thunder in the plastic bucket. Don’t spill it.

Fill it to the top. Lift to the hip, stop,
balance the weight for the dangerous walk

home. Home.
Don’t lose a drop.

From the police chowki across the track
a whistle, a shout. Run. Don’t stop. Don’t slip.

A drag at the hip. Hot, hot underfoot. Water slops
up and out in every direction, over the lip,

over her legs, a shock of cool, a spark of light.
With her stolen piece of sky, she has taken flight.

Behind her, the shouters give up. She puts down
the bucket. The water stills.

She looks into it, looks up to where the blue
is scarred with aimless tracks.

Jet-trails cross each other off
before they die out, a careless X.


Last Snowman by Simon Armitage.
Photograph, Daniel Beltra: Poem Climate change Daniel Betra Ilulissat, Greenland.

Last Snowman

He drifted south
   down an Arctic seaway
      on a plinth of ice, jelly tots

weeping lime green tears
   around both eyes,
      a carrot for a nose

(some reported parsnip),
   below which a clay pipe
      drooped from a mouth

that was pure stroke-victim.
   A red woollen scarf trailed
      in the meltwater drool

at his base, and he slumped
   to starboard, kinked,
      gone at the pelvis.

From the buffet deck
   of a passing cruise liner
      stag and hen parties shied

Scotch eggs and Pink Ladies
   as he rounded the stern.
      He sailed on between banks

of camera lenses
   and rubberneckers,
      past islands vigorous

with sunflower and bog myrtle
   into a bloodshot west,
      singular and abominable.


Turbines in January by Colette Bryce.
Photograph, Ashley Cooper: Part of the Tehachapi Pass wind farm, the first large scale wind farm area developed in the US, California, USA, at sunrise.

Turbines in January

A thousand synonyms for wind
make up your song.
Those busy arms

may juggle any number of rumours
going around:
your Swish, for one—

they say it whisks the pool of sleep;
that blades cut holes
in the cloth of dreams;

that shadow-flicker
makes of the sunniest day
a speed-frame motion picture,

and panes of ice, which crystallize
on your frozen wings,
are flung when you turn

(one, it was said, had lodged
like a glass fin
in the roof of a camper van).


What’s to be done
to keep your head in the clouds,
your whirling one-track mind,

for the wingers and losers,
raptors, plovers, gulls
batted to the ground?

What’s to be done
about your foot, electric root
beneath an ocean floor

abuzz with armoured
creatures charmed
by your magnetic aura?


Like my brother’s
distance-defying snaps,
where the London Eye will rest

like a trinket in his palm
or the Tower of Pisa
bend to the slightest pressure

of an index finger,
these turbines
could be a row of daffodils

bordering a lawn, signalling
the spring, as I reach
my hand out

into the perspective,
pluck one like a stem,
raise it to my lips

like a child’s seaside windmill
on a stick, and blow…
Its earfolds fill and spin.


The Rhinoceros by Robert Minhinnick.
Photograph, Robert Pratta: A replica of pre-historic drawings showing animals is seen on a wall during a press visit at the site of the Cavern of Pont-d'Arc project in Vallon Pont d'Arc April 8, 2015.

The Rhinoceros

On the Steel Beach


Look at these.
Thaw sweat.
Smoke on the swale.
Swarf off a swollen sea.


These. World famous
footprints at low water. Nine
thousand years old, they say, but who’s
counting. Not me.
Yet maybe I am.


A small man. Or woman. Outcast
or outlaw, hunter, flintknapper, cook.
All of these.
Yes, a woman, pregnant once again,
and coming home through the red mud.


Or maybe she was dancing.
Yes, a woman, I guess,
who loved to dance
and paint her eyes with kohl and ochre
and squat to squint at herself
in some rock pool and ask
“what are you?”


At night before she slept
she would breathe her harsh
hashish and tell her story behind the flames
about the brine-bright animals
she had scratched into the sand:
her wolf,
her bear,
her rhinoceros.

Yes, an armoured rhino
like the torrent poured golden
and smoking from the blast furnace ladle,
a rhino where the glacier will be

and coming out of the sun,
a rhino she will picture
with her goatwillowstick
on the last morning she will wake.


Silent Sea by Rachael Boast.
Photograph, Thomas Dworzak: USA. New Orleans, Louisiana. September 3, 2005.

Silent Sea
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea

- ST Coleridge

Another vessel sheds the chrome
of its silver mile until a mile
meanders into three, triples again

over the reef. Nothing can breathe
under oil, nor register that
dark membrane’s slick

over sight. We were the first
cracking the hull of the earth
open, our foolish husbandry

a metallurgy that’s brimmed
with false gold too often
we can talk, and talk, and talk

but a ship in space, manned
by non-thinking from non-feeling,
says absolutely nothing at all.


The Question by Theo Dorgan.
Photograph, Bill Anders/Appolo 8: The ‘blue, beautiful world’ seen from space.

The Question

When the great ships come back,
and come they will,
when they stand in the sky
all over the world,
candescent suns by day,
radiant cathedrals in the night,
how shall we answer the question:

What have you done
with what was given you,
what have you done with
the blue, beautiful world?


Still Life with Sea Pinks and High Tide by Maura Dooley.
Photograph, Jonas Bendiksen: Climate change poem pix.

Still Life with Sea Pinks and High Tide

Thrift grows tenacious at the tide’s reach.
What is that reach when the water
is rising, rising?

Our melting, shifting, liquid world won’t wait
for manifesto or mandate, each
warning a reckoning.

Ice in our gin or vodka chirrups and squeaks
dissolving in the hot, still air
of talking, talking.


Nostalgia by Don Paterson.
Photograph, Richard Kalvar: Clouds in the sky, Ile de Ré.


I miss when I could drop down on all fours
and flick the ground away from under me.
I miss the wire I ran into the earth.
I miss when I was the bloom on the sea
and we slept forever under the warm clouds
till something twitched with design
and woke the clock. So we arose and went.
Last night when the waters rose again
I rowed out to the beeless glade
and lay down on the grass. My sister
taught me to watch the stars this way
lest I think that heaven was up, or heaven,
lest I forget the stars are also below us
where they sink and sail into the dark like cinders.


A Language of Change by David Sergeant.
Photograph, Ferdinando Scianna: Australia, Melbourne.

A Language of Change

‘as late capitalism writhed in its internal decision concerning whether to destroy Earth’s biosphere or change its rules’
– Kim Stanley Robinson

We’re sat by the ocean and this
could be a love poem; but that lullaby murderer
refuses each name I give it
and the icebergs seep into our sandwiches,
translated by carbon magic. And even this might be
to say too much. But the muse of poetry
has told me to be more clear – and don’t,
s/he said, for the love of God, please, screw things up.
Ambiguous, I didn’t reply; as we’re sat
by the ocean and I could make it
anything you wanted, for this moment
of speaking – but we have made it
something forever. Together
the weather
is a language we can barely understand;
but confessional experts detect
in the senseless diktat of hurricane
a hymning of our sins, our stupid counterpoint.
Love has served its purpose, now must be
transformed by an impersonal sequester
of me into the loves I will not see,
or touch, or in any way remember.
Perhaps it was always like this – take my hand,
horizon – ceding this land.


California Dreaming by Lachlan Mackinnon.
Photograph, Trent Parke: Australia. Queensland. Fraser Island. 2003.

California Dreaming

Almonds and vines and lawns
drink up the last
of shallow, short-term water

then suck on the black depths
with a draw mightier
than the moon’s. And suck.

In sudden places the ground
puckers and caves.
Far westward, China smokes.

Nobody sees the rains fail
until they have.
Tableland mesas crack.

In the mountains the snowpack thins,
meltwater now brown
reluctant drops.

Cities gasp in the sun’s stare.
Faucets cough
and families turn inwards.

There must be somebody to blame.
Better ourselves than no-one.
We brag

of damage done
but whether we could truly
dry all rain, bake all earth,

science does not know.
The wastefulness was all
ours but this fetid heat

could be a planetary
impersonal adjustment
like an ice age,

so it might well be wise
to keep always
facepaint and ash about us.

When the last clouds
wagon-train off,
loincloth and invocation will be

the one hope for last
woman and last man discovering
she’s pregnant.

[Someone may complain that I am abusing copyright by re-posting these poems here. If they do they'd better make it good. Alan Rusbridger and his 'journalists' turn out to be bourgeois dilettanti at their worst. He is a 'rush bridger' indeed, in several senses. In the movie version he will be played by Peter Postlethwaite. (Oh?! That's already been done you say? Pity.) He will quote Leonard Cohen, verbatim & uncredited: "The nightmares do not suddenly develop happy endings; I merely step out of them as a five year old scientist leaves the room where he has dissected an alarm clock."]
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