A SONG FOR THE SOIL

This is best done out loud, with a chorus.  I wrote it for the Beltane gathering in the Waterworks forest.

 

We are the Humans, we sing for the soil:
Heart of bedrock, stardust, volcano,
ocean and river, the grinding of glacier,
weather and fire, bone, leaf and shell.

We’re Humans from Humus, Earthlings from Earth,
and we sing for the soil, yes, we sing for the soil.

A city of beings lives under our feet:
earthworm and nematode, microbe and mole,
amphibian, beetle, fungus and vole.

We’re Humans from Humus, Earthlings from Earth,
and we sing for the soil, yes, we sing for the soil.

We stand here as Humans–from Humus we’ve come:
water and mineral, microbe and air.
The soil is our mother, our sister, our teacher,
she feeds us, she holds us, she carries us in.

We’re Humans from Humus, Earthlings from Earth,
and we sing for the soil, yes, we sing for the soil.

We are the Earthlings, we grow from the ground,
this ground made of stardust, of water, of death.
May we keep our feet rooted and keep our hands deep
in the Earth that gives our young planet her name.

We’re Humans from Humus, Earthlings from Earth,
and we sing for the soil, yes, we sing for the soil.

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LIGHTHOUSES

Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save–
they just stand there shining.   
~Anne Lamott


1.
The ferry from Digby to St. John
moved through fog so thick
that all the metaphors applied.

When we slid into the midnight harbor,
no sound but the deep horn and the bells,
nothing visible beyond the circle of our selves
but a blurred path of light.

2.
Solitary, tall and white it stands.
All night, and every stormy day
it flashes one clear message:
Keep away, keep away, keep away.

SUMMONING

Happy Earth Day.

 

One clear morning
after the airplane had passed
and the trucks on the road were gone,
I called them together.

The crows in a great black pack
answered right away,
hollering down from their business
in the treetops and the sky.

Red squirrels stopped
their endless scamper
and sat still
on the stumps and fenceposts.

Coyotes and bobcats emerged from their dens
in woodpiles or stone foundations
and sat alert, their soft ears
pricked toward my call.

Bears lumbered up from deep in the forest
and peered out from the undergrowth,
a hard glitter in their eyes.
Their suspicion was not surprising,

considering their customary solitude.
Have you heard?  I asked them.
It is happening.  
Of course they knew.

They had been waiting
for me to notice.
I was the one
who had forgotten.

They had been working for years.
And all the while, the trees
had persisted in their silent task:
light to leaf to ground.

The little brooks, too:
resolutely filling the valleys
with the broken mountains,
the bare plowed fields.

LESSON

 

Her world was filled with goddesses then:
sheets and sheets of crayoned portraits
that summer before she started to bleed.
The wind, too,
a little brook through the meadow,
and at night Artemis and all the rest.
The old apple tree could sing.

Later, of course, it all came apart.
The gods took over, their pavements and towers,
the language she learned to get along.
She grew modest and small.
The wind was only wind.
Trees became a blur of green.
The moon stopped chasing through her dreams.

And later yet–her own fruit ripe and fallen–
Hecate overtook her at the crossing
and taught her to see how trees want
nothing more than life: nesting finches,
five-pointed stars in their immortal hair,
how broken trunks sprout from their roots,
the small brush of coppice bears blossom.

QUESTIONS

Hello, Bloodroot.  Was it hard,
shoving up through wet leaves?

And Stone, what can you tell
of your tumble under ice?

Worm, half-crushed by wheels,
where are you going now?

What is the willow
writing in the water?

What do clouds whisper
as they skid across the stars?

Sun, has anyone told you
that someday you will die?

Mud, whose eyes have you been
and whose bones?

Wind, whose body have you touched?
Whose breath will you become?

SPRING BEHOLDING

The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything.
~Julian of Norwich


Otter washing her paws
in the cold pond water.

Bluebird, robin, forgotten
songs come home.

Vulture and hawk
soaring the slope.

Three thin deer,
feet splayed in dry grass.

Squirrels.  Rabbits.
Stones.

Snowmelt, icy
from the hills.

Logging truck grunting
far down the road,

its work, its purpose,
its heavy load.

STARTING OVER

–and do you remember the night the long rain stopped?
We woke to silence, and moonlight through the high window.
No sound but the animals breathing in their sleep–
–and the owls—

It was so hard to wait
but when the dove did not return
you worked open the swollen latch
and we pushed the ladder out.
I shooed away the chickens–
all those chickens underfoot.

You insisted on going first
even though your rheumatism was bad–
and I came down right behind you
with my knees not so much better.
Soft wet dirt, all the swamp stink,
but not a cloud in sight.

On top of the hill, that one tree
–Olive–with little leaves unfolding,
beginnings of buds where new olives would be–

The children crowded down behind.
Everything that could fly flew;
and the mice and monkeys, squirrels, possums,
horses, camels, cats and dogs.
Stones everywhere, like bones;
and bones, so many bones.

I scattered the seeds I’d saved on the slick and blackened ground.
You made a pile of stones, went back in and fetched a lamb, a calf.
The sun warmed my face–
We brought fire from the little lamp
while the bow shimmered there, hanging there–

Somehow the freedom of it–
so strange even now remembering it, believing it–
knowing that we are the ones–
the making and mending, the losing, yielding,
how it all comes out–

So soon the olives bloomed, blossoms fell,
little seeds grew up to grain.
We made wine from the grapes;
apples ripened red, so sweet,
on every clean-picked twig the nub of next year’s fruit;
in each white heart one strange and impeccable star.
 

March 24, 2003