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Sunday, July 20, 2014


by Ruth Maassen

“We are the asteroid now.” --Elizabeth Kolbert

We tell ourselves the tale of Gaia, a budding girl
with flowers in her hair, in mortal peril, and nod
and sigh and turn away. Oh, well. What’s on TV?
If we bleach out the richness of what remains
we needn’t know what our every breath endangers.

We can’t see what’s gone when it’s not there.
Species drain away unmourned. Forests shrink.
If the biosphere dies and no one is left to grieve,
will it matter? No one weeps for the dodo.
No one from our galaxy will weep for us.

Blessedly the stars are far out of our reach.
Our incessant observations do no harm.
Stars are impervious to myth and sky-sketched
constellations, they never know our eye-I-eye-I-eye.
Their atoms go on fusing in the far-off long-ago.

Why does the pelting rain not penetrate our skin?
Why is the wind no more than a mass of air moving,
not malevolent, not malign, however it buffets
the thin walls of the house and drifts the snow?
Why does it not burst open the prison cell of self?

Oh, for a sea serpent to surge onto the beach
and grapple us to our doom, like Laocoön.
Oh, for rough music to leak from the crevasse
where ancient gods live on in granite. Sing on,
old ones, before the music goes silent forever.

Ruth Maassen is the poet laureate of the small seaside town, Rockport, Massachusetts.