Friday, August 21, 2015

Oh,     .....     Onions!

Beautiful, maieutic onions! Eutrapely!
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Inflation in Brazil: Onions up by 145.53% this year.
Bosco: Onions up by 145.53% this year.
It so happens I (may) have knowledge about onions in Brazil.

But first, a précis and a processional ...

Précis:   (for busy executives with no time to spare)
Australia: Coal.Wiley Miller: The First Selfie.Mongolia: (Peabody) Coal.
Half-baked Hysteria:   Proceeding from the vestry to the chancel at the opening of this service with three vignettes.

1) Andrew Nikiforuk presents an 'elegant metaphor': The Earth's Battery Is Running Low (Source: PNAS, abstract & full pdf.) He says, "[It] gives ordinary people an elegant metaphor to understand the globe's stagnating economic and political systems and their close relatives: collapsing ecosystems." Call me a curmudgeon but it don't shed any light for me, rather the opposite.

2) I expected better from Peter Sale: Bonfires and Vanities - How changing attitudes to climate and privilege signal the revolution has started. He says, "As an ecologist, I knew ... that if the Harp Seal population was not managed, the cod fishery would likely decline." There is a Plexus & a Nexus of nonsense expressed in this single sentence (worthy of Henry Miller himself). Second only to a few paragraphs later when he says, "It’s ameliorated by our growing separation from nature, and our consequent lack of awareness of our need to kill animals for animal food or other products. This is not logic. It’s emotion, pure and simple. But it leads somewhere potentially good – the beginnings of a new respect for non-human life."

So ... the collapse of the cod is down to seals, and stupidity will save us. Wowzers!

3) Wazizname ... Mulcair, is in favour of sustainable oil sands development. The oxymoron in the headline is echoed and re-echoed in the text. Read it and weep. If they keep it up, Stephen Harper will split these fools from stem to gudgeon pintle-pin, leave 'em to flail & founder, and go for the gold (black gold that is), again.

One further aside:   I also weep to see the silly Greens trying to make Elizabeth May into a sex object as evidenced by her ridiculous coached performance in the Macleans debate. She won anyway of course.

There's turbulence in the Zeitgeist (I guess), call it 'The Chicken Little Syndrome': when the pressure of reality comes on and otherwise thoughtful people lose all discernment. If my brain were equal to the task I would draw a detailed map comparing and contrasting the letter from Jorge/Francis - a substantive reference point - with this wretched dreck fit only to frighten, flatter, and entertain urban know-nothing muggles.

If, as Peter fatuously opines, a revolution is really to begin, the muggles must first undergo a (highly unlikely) conversion - not to Catholicism, but to thinking - or it will not be a revolution at all but most brutal chaos - what the good bourgeois burghers imagine as 'anarchy'.

Jorge/Francis (for all I vehemently disagree with him on so many things) is keeping his eye on the ball with a timely: World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation on September 1. Toronto Catholics are all on vacation of course, busy damning Laudato Si' with faint praise and inattention, so don't expect any official organization for September 1 in Toronto The Good.

I don't think this Jorge/Francis fellow's a dilletante either (unlike Alan Rusbridger) - I bet single malt he keeps at it 'til he drops. I could be wrong.

... and now back to regularly scheduled programming:

I wake singing in the morning almost every day. The last week or so it's been Neil Young:
See the lonely boy
out on the weekend
tryin' to make it pay.
Can't relate to joy he
tries to speak and
can't begin to say.
One of my sons, a most competent critic of the pop, complains that our Neil is so whiny; and after a week I do agree, but the tune still sticks.

So ... onions ...
Mar Grosso.
Mar Grosso.Down towards the southernmost regions of Brasil are Rio Grande, São José do Norte, Pelotas, small cities, towns. Very flat country, and low - most of it sand dunes just a few metres above sea level.

They used to grow a lot of onions here. Then the government made a trade deal and now, even in local supermarkets the onions come from China, some investment group in Porto Alegre gets rich, and onion farms lie fallow.

One can fall in love with the horizon; and, because flat can mean windy, with the wind - an old man needs lots of gears on his bicycle. It should have been easy enough to buy a defunct onion farm. Not so. Gringos attract the heat. Almost found a place out on Ilha dos Marinheiros but the government already knows it's going underwater and there's a plan in place with regulations to prevent speculation, especially by estrangeiros.
Map: Rio Grande, Brazil.I tried everything I knew but nothing washed. I said to my sweet beloved, "Vamos virar fazendeiros de cebolas," and she, not quite understanding, said, "Sou preta mas não sou escrava meu amor."

RS-101 runs north from São José do Norte, is called 'The Devil's Highway' and eats tractor trailers whole. The beach goes alongside it for 100 miles or so. The other way, south from Cassino is about the same but with no highway. Hard sand, easy to cycle on as long as you're going with the wind. Inside are Lagoa dos Patos, Lagoa Mirim, and Lagoa Mangueira. They're very shallow. There's a local flat-bottomed sail boat, much like a Newfie dory, that people use to get around them but when I go to visit the boat-maker he's out (twice) and I need an easy win at that point.

Enough stories of failure and round-tuits to fill a bin. I'll spare you except to say something happened and I still don't know exactly what it was, something existential but I can't seem to see the bottom of it. I did see Orion one night in July from my balcony in Ipanema. What a surprise! I thought, "You're a long way from home," but it was nothing of the kind.
Mar Grosso, January 2008.Mar Grosso, January 2008.Mar Grosso, January 2008.Mar Grosso, January 2008.Rio Grande airport, January 2008.
Humans generally don't (can't) communicate, cooperate, work in common, et cætera; but very occasionally they do. [Oh look! Et cætera, a diphthong; and here's another comin' up with an accent an' all ...]

My friend Keith had a theory that humans have become two species. I mocked him for it at the time but maybe he was right. Compassion/altruism is that rare that it could be a genetic sport. If and when they find the gene I bet it's on the Neanderthal side.

Homo grǽdum: from Old English grǽd/greed, greedy, hungry, eager(ly). Worth a look in the OED; and also see Bob Dylan "Gimme a string bean. I'm a hungry man."   VERSUS   H. agapiens: from Greek ἀγάπη/brotherly love (and presumably comprising the sisterly as well).

Unfortunately the H. agapiens purveyors are about all woo-woo space cadets with no stroke: Matthieu Ricard, Thomas Berry; the meek-and-mild side of Jesus Christ and such. Smart guys; it's easy to tell they've got it right - they know anything that is accomplished will be one on one. They're lucid but not inspiring. Of course I wish them well.

See: The great work: our way into the future, Thomas Mary Berry, 1999.
        The sacred universe: earth, spirituality, and religion in the twenty-first century,
                Thomas Mary Berry, 2009 (essays 1972-2001).
        Altruism: the power of compassion to change yourself and the world,
                Matthieu Ricard, 2015 (translated from French).
        The Copernicus complex: our cosmic significance in a universe of planets and probabilities,
                Caleb A. Scharf, 2014. (This last to serve as ballast.)

So Orion goes chasing the Pleiades. And Aristotle's seven moral virtues too eh? Well, who wouldn't?
Elihu Vedder: The Pleiades, 1885.Orion, Taurus, The Pleiades.

This is all beginning to look like fodder for a spelling bee huh?

In 'Treme', the New Orleans 'serial' (mostly no more than tourist tout), John Goodman as Creighton Bernette nonetheless delivers an amazing eight-second monologue. "Fuck you you fucking fucks!" And shortly thereafter commits suicide by ferryboat.

A large digression is called for here (which will not be supplied, just sketched out) to describe the path from certain approximately feminist roots to enforced positive thinking (possibly via 'Waldorf Shortfall'), and thence to virtual fatwa and jihad AND hijra on any display of anger whatsoever, righteous or not. 'Virtual' because outright violence and suicide bombers are replaced by forbearance, shunning, and (as needed) hypocrisy & 'meds'. This can all put a hitch in struggles originating in perceptions of injustice; the most effective end-run becoming non-violent confrontation & civil disobedience. (Sorry for the shorthand.)

So ... not ignoring Jorge/Francis' recent call for conversion in Laudato Si' ...

When it comes to conversion experiences C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton may serve as exemplars: either a sudden change that comes upon one whilst walking up a hill, or a process so gradual it almost seems not to proceed, or ... none of the above.

Atheism (an exception to the 'i before e' rule) comes to me graciously while sitting on a park bench a few years ago listening to and watching the orchestra in the leaves; and the clincher is that it arrives (with a host of antecedents in tow) and does not diminish the beauty of it all by one iota.

A careful distinction needs to be made: atheism is 99 and 44/100ths% at best, more often ⅞ ths (see Richard Dawkins). If a 100-percenter shows up she or he is faking it; a 100%er on either side for that matter, certainty and wisdom being an inimical pair.

And then, just the other day in the park, again sitting on a bench (same park, different bench), another penny drops: The default answer to any question put to a human is "No."

 This too shall pass. :-)Oh yes, the (braggart) optimist wakes singing, most days; but on the occasional midnight a troll hand creeps 'round my ribs from behind and grips my heart. I get up and pace, thinking, "This terror too shall pass," ... and sure enough, it does.

Two flawed & bogus visions of Barack Obama:
Szep: Obama carrying the planet.Danziger: Obama's choice.

Some very good work by Rebecca Hendin:
Rebecca Hendin: Tom Cotton, Dear Ocean.Rebecca Hendin: Koch Brothers select a pet.
Rebecca Hendin: See No Evil. Do No Good.Rebecca Hendin: Barack Obama selling TPP.

And then there's Hillary, who doesn't even need to be bought:
Ted Rall: Hillary Clinton's record.Brian Gable: Hillary Clinton, momentum.Matt Wuerker: Hillary Clinton, lies.Mr Fish: Hillary Clinton, record.Steve Brodner: Hillary Clinton in the choir.Catalino: Hillary Clinton, big game hunter.John Deering: Hillary Clinton, contender.John Darkow: Hillary Clinton as Lucy.

As the internal Musak® modulates to 'Jerusalem' and "green and pleasant land," but in a minor key that makes everything strange and over it I hear 'The Swallow' moving into minor sharps & flats as she cries "Young man! What have ye done?!"

I want to pass this on somehow (silly, fond old fellow - a 'communato' as Keith called it) especially to the grandkids who will bear the brunt; but pass it on without scaring the pants off 'em either; so I cook up this half-hour video. I'm not sure they watch it but my old friend Chris does and tells me later: Yes, it's a poem, and poems are permitted to be subtle.

It's hot & muggy in Toronto and the cicadas are singin'. And there are (still?) a few Monarch butterflies fluttering about.

Shekhar Gurera: Onions.
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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.
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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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