What is poetry’s role when the world is burning? Encroaching environmental disaster and the relentless wars around the world have had, it seems, a paralyzing, sterilizing effect on much American poetry. It is less the magnitude of the crises than our apparent immunity to them, this death on which we all thrive, that is spinning our best energies into…shrill denunciations of a culture whose privileges we are not ready to renounce—or, more accurately, do not even know how to renounce. There is some fury of clarity, some galvanizing combination of hope and lament, that is much needed now, but it sometimes seems that we…are anxiously waiting for the devastation to reach our very streets, as it one day will, it most certainly will.
-Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss
How I love the lake; it calms me and whispers its fierce, cold lullaby to my heart. I touch the bark of maple and oak, name the names of each flower in spring, glad for their return. I love the snowflake, telling me a tale of infinite delicacy, perfect individuality.
But what does my love translate into? Do I have any salvific strength? I live thoughtlessly inside my large grocery store, my mini-van—a culture whose privileges we are not ready to denounce—or, more accurately, do not even know how to renounce. What words of hope can I speak onto a page, what lament will be more than helplessness? How do I dignify creation without ignoring destruction?
Last night I dreamed I was alone.
Rain shivered on our roof until
the ceiling dissolved like salt, white-lipped
water beading on my forehead, my knees.
I swallowed buds on trees and sandy peat.
When I woke before dawn, Zach was still asleep
next to me, neither of us drowned,
though mud and grass
still clung to our eyelashes.