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Poetry

Naming the Waters
These lines that have no compass but the heart
     that in them beating lies: how faithfully
they follow the unfolding of a theme
     in nuance and suggestion. The air was still;
the river slumbered. And though those waters merit
     more than a passing thought -- or homily
on transience -- I give each thought a name,
     as if by naming I might slow the will
to think or magnify. The river's pulse
     continues. And lines that have their origin
in water make a river of their own,
     as they recount the story of the water
and follow at their own unbroken pace
     the crash of wave on wave, the river's engine
throbbing at the outskirts of the town.
     Thoughts of fluidity; thoughts of water:
no less than hidden currents in the channel,
     those recognitions pulsate in the heart
until their stirrings grow articulate,
     their forms intelligent, their verdicts final.

— Ben Howard

Perspective
It came to earth, this brew
of salt, lime and sun astir in the waters,

the moment to walk in the world

another swirl closer.
Fledgling flagellants coalesced in the algae,

life reaching out and adding up,

its elephantine grasp of the future begun.
From a pond the what-nots rose flailing,

flowers reseeding, the grasses grain laden

enough to make a wooly herbivore's
fat marble. Not long before the flesh-eaters

caught on, nail and tooth ready to rip, ready

to pick up the pace as down through the leaves
the host came, all its metabolic pumps

fired, simian grin spreading as it walked

beneath a tree
that made the whole blue sky seem lower.

—Katherine Soniat

Rara Avis
The thing about the Trouvère's Mynah,
native to unmapped headwaters of Kabilan
(though escapees from cages reportedly flourish
in various towns and cities) -- this aerial
performer of the mating dance, this orange bird
with black, ogive arabesques on its flanks,
two bass-clef plumes in purple extending
from the tail, farther than they need to --
like so many things in "nature," so-called --
extending so much farther than it needs;
this whole coal-flame thing so much brighter
than it needs; and the voice, the ventriloqual,
scrolling trill-work and whistle-craft --
the thing about this bird, feather-galooned
and diademed, is that no one knows what it eats;
we know it eats -- it must eat -- and still,
no one knows what keeps the thing alive.

—William Wenthe


A Moment
Though I was walking in my usual way
along a lane I knew as well as any,
my walk felt new, my steps not mine at all.

Not mine nor anyone's. It was as though
the sounds of steps occurring in the world
were entering and leaving my awareness

and I were there to hear them, not to govern
their coming into being, their departure.

—Ben Howard













OnEarth. Spring 2002
Copyright 2002 by the Natural Resources Defense Council