burn this if you want to

i offer no illusion
last night the hen house was raided.
opened the door to a mess of
feathers and blood this morning,
all of them gone.

nothing of the spotted hen but her liver
licked clean on some star splashed quills.
the rooster dead and whole in the middle of it all,
too big to be carried into the night.

and what is to be done now
when there is no undoing
and blossoms still open
petal by petal
to the sun.

i offer no hope, i never could.
i never could be your shield
in the face of inevitability,
your deep pool
waiting for you to drown
in your own reflection.

i want to see us thrive,
but that is between me and
and the rich dark earth –
hands and knees
in the garden.

i offer no explanation
the moon rose.
the raspberries were good, tart,
early or perhaps really really late
either way there is no space in the sky anymore
for anything other than what always was
and always is. plastic bags have learned to swim like jellyfish,
riding ocean currents crammed thick and close
with plankton and krill and bottles and stuff.

i offer no religion
but the taste of rain
and pulsing forest
though you know
we turn to prayer
when the world is aflame
and the ocean starts to gnaw
at our cities, but who then
will be listening –
which sane god would choose
to love us now.

and of course we ran when the flames came close.
laid my hands on the soil of my home,
whispered stay safe while spring flower heads
towered and lolled in the unseasonable wind.
crammed child and goat and dog in our car
and fossil-fuelled our way to safety –
an ugly irony in this warming world.

i offer no excuse:
this is not a season we might remember,
but a landscape.
winter has washed through us,
left our bones clean to the wind

and yet spring rises – sap green and bursting,
birds are building nests in my hair.
when autumn comes,
the birds will fly
and i will be here

i offer nothing but this effigy.
gathered words and cloth bound with hair
and the grass rings woven while
the wild freesias bloom along the river

where sometimes fish as long as my arm
leap, slap the surface silver and
return to the depths i could never fathom –
even in summer, diving below,
ears taut and full with pressure
arms reaching beyond my breath
outstretched until there is nothing but sun-shafts, shadow-water
and eternity looking at this moment bathed in light.

i offer only this
burn it if you want to.

First published in Dark Mountain vol 15 – revised and reposted for Brendan at Earthweal’s weekly challenge: A LYRE FOR A CHANGING EARTH. Read his essay here https://earthweal.com/2022/10/03/lyre-for-a-changing-earth/


14 thoughts on “burn this if you want to

  1. Wow. This poem says – everything. As well and grief-stricken as it can be said. “Which sane god would love us now” and “we turn to prayer when the world is aflame” – so powerful, as is the narrator’s response, kneeling with hands in the earth, planting what hope there is. Really powerful writing. Goes straight to the mind and heart, and stays.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sherry. This is a slightly older piece – both the fires and the honey badger raids on the hen house were in 2018 – but i was not quite happy with the final edit and did want to rework it a bit. And yes, losing the whole flock was difficult especially as they had been safe in their home for 10 years before, but we have reinforced the hen house and have not had any losses since then even though the honey badger has tried a few times since – leaving muddy paw marks on the walls as a calling card.


  2. The position earth poets find themselves in is between high grief and dogged hope: a leaping tearing sort of serenity. We can “offer no excuse” for what is, in both its burning and florid aspects. An effigy may not be enough but there’s still work to do, immersed in the is-ness of our fleeting eternal moment. Poor chickens. Good garden. Sung beautifully start to finish.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. There is a calm and serene sense of nature here, paradoxically clashing with frighteningly active events. Too many beautiful images and lines to count–I especially love the fourth and fifth stanzas, with their emotional wisdom, and the idea that it is not a season but a landscape. And the fish, and their dark-alive home. And the raspberries, and so much more. A fine, luminous poem, lindi.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It is terrible when a predator animal gets into the chicken house. I’ve seen that carnage too. It is so distressing.
    Your poem is very beautiful despite the awful events you describe. Sometimes I wonder if it is beauty that will carry us forward – or maybe just those with the eyes and heart to see will move forward.

    Liked by 1 person

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