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On the bad days the cataract moon,
the full hunter’s moon, splinters in the sky;
footstep pieces rain into the atmosphere.
I am swimming in the Great Lakes
among the decomposing bodies of pigs,
flip-flops, and plastic wallets.
Our neighbor has caught fire
walking to the mailbox
and flakes of his kindling skin
drift up the hill like paper.
The black pine off the deck aches
for the touch of finches and flickers —
its twin is already gone
heart broken, heart broken,
and the streambed of the intermittent stream
has given up trying to remember
the feel of water.
The tv plays its only scene:
the thin-boned dad rocking on the curb,
his eyes like socket wrenches, saying
we lost everything.
On the good days it is like
this late November snow / so still
you can hear across Well Gulch
the rustle of that unselfconscious thrush
regular as the earth contracting in the sun.
He has fallen asleep now,
tired in his abundance.
I wear my old wool hat to get the mail.
Melinda, the post girl, is still down the block,
trembling in her cappuccino-colored Jeep,
clapping her hands for blood,
and so I wait,
boots squeaking in the drift
below the cottonwood.
You’re sixty in September.
You’ve gotta start looking after yourself,
my wife said, and she made a list
of prebiotics and probiotics —
a few biotics I barely remember.
Ease up on the tarts,
the lemon meringue and its sugary foam,
on Clif Bars, pasta, salsa, Oreos,
GMOs, bread and Eskimo Pies!
Have lentils instead, and onions,
Cox’s Orange Pippins, big as a fist.
It begins in the gut, she promised,
not in the heart.
So I made a start
with real raw honey
(really? she sighed;
ha! prebiotic, I said)
and if it hadn’t been for the cost
of tempeh, cacao, a whole lot of cha…
Hey, I’m not made of money, I grumbled
(well, something grumbled, and it grumbled
through the night like a fermented beast).
Are you all right? she asked.
Maybe some brewer’s yeast?
Feeling pretty good, to be honest,
and if it wasn’t for the gas,
I’d say my microbiome’s kicking ass.
It’s separated from my body.
It’s keeping a schedule
I just can’t match:
it addressed the UN Assembly
on Climate Change Tuesday;
someone said it broke into the boardroom
of a big oil refiner,
forced them all to eat kimchi,
retrained a West Virginia miner,
reunited an immigrant family in detention
(it rates a daily mention
in the presidential tweets),
brought four or five bird species
back from the brink of extinction,
refroze an ice cap —
how do you even do that? —
offset China’s carbon footprint
with a megaton of wind,
and permanently, single-handedly
just implemented the Paris agreement.
Lord Jesus! said my sweetheart.
You should probably rein that sucker in.
Put aside the yogurt.
This evening, take a break:
here’s a liter of Barolo
and a chocolate brownie cake!
In the little alpine chapel in Fiesch,
for more than three hundred years,
the villagers prayed for the ice to stop.
They were farmers mostly. Catholic.
Placid and philosophical at work,
fixtures, like wax or oak,
or pulpits polished by grace —
as German hands.
Glacier is ice, they sang. Ice is water, water is life.
But it was death, too, they knew,
dropping immense sheets like buttresses
into the lake above,
flooding the valley.
Friends died, the baker and the blacksmith.
They buried the dead, rebuilt, sang hymns,
looked up at the spectral spirit
come down to earth, yawning and stretching,
pregnant, rudely aping
the Visitation of Mary,
for whom they had named
the little chapel in the pines.
And it worked.
Their anxious voices rose up,
hundreds huddled in procession,
children grew old, falling asleep
with the words of the liturgy
in their heads.
The ice shrank, ten meters or more a year.
So they changed the prayer.
Now they pray for the glacier to survive.
when the little chapel was dark
and the crowd had dispersed,
sat amazed, sighing and amazed,
at how little they knew