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Thursday, January 19, 2017


by John Brooks

The carcass of a dead cow lies in the Black Umfolozi River, dry from the effects ot the latest severe drought, in Nongoma district north west from Durban, South Africa, on November 9, 2015. (Photo: MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP/Getty Images) via Forbes.

seen in a dream:

it was a day in early May
when my love and I went walking,
and came upon a shopping street
of smiles and pleasant talking

where gentle commerce, kissed by breezes
under mildest skies,
proves the wisdom of peaceful nations
and gentle, tranquil eyes

where prices just—
when haggled settled in prompt and balanced measure—
pass on goodwill, then more goodwill,
an ever-flowing treasure

and though the smiles may sometimes flash
like lovey-dovey corp-prop,
the vibes they pulse are so sincere
the darkest cynics’ thoughts stop

where sunlight softly shines on skin
of every varied hue,
tattooed “FAIR TRADE”
for it’s fair trade the livelong day they do

makers, buyers, sellers, all
craft laws and customs too—
a demos-dappled, fair-spun world
of fairness through and through

where differences of every scope
‘twixt persons, groups, and nations,
instead of sparking conflict meet
respect and admiration

and women bask in happiness
of luminous equality,
while men assess all hyper quests
to dom but rank frivolity

with each child’s rights kept well in sight
health, safety, education—
not mom’s, not pop’s, or others’ chattel,
sublime emancipation

cis, bi, and gay, hermaphro, trans
walk arm in arm so winsome,
for all sex o and g id
full tolerance and then some

the air so clean,
completely free of fossil fuel exhaust,
all power, transport, factories green
because we know the cost

where vegan ways have won the day
‘cause land-use, carbon eco,
for Gaia, humans, fauna kind,
much more than trendy deco

and stable climes bless stable lands—
temps to precipitation—
the dream realized—full zero C!—
for each and every nation

where soft, caressing zephyrs wafting
from a nearby sea
with placid wave sounds free the soul
of all anxiety

and all those found in need receive
an adequate basic income,
and since all lead self-purposed lives,
contentment in their hearts thrums

while all, liaising every way,
pursue accord in every sense
with greetings, meetings, and farewells
eschewing petty dissonance

for each supports the wider commons
because it’s understood
that one’s desires should be fulfilled
within the greater good

as my love and I drank up these nectars
imbibed as we were walking,
our faces creased in wondrous bliss
without the need of talking

but then I roused and knew I’d dreamed
but a hope of some day could be,
then lay awake to fear the quickening
trump of one day will be

of a nightmare of our making
on the path we’re treading now,
what we’ll swear we tried our best to stop
as we bring upon ourselves

for oh I fear heat-shackled skies
and fear how quick the seas will rise
fear too huge seas of hate will bring
great storms and inundation

so too I fear vast droughts will come,
and famine and starvation,
and with them swarms of grief will come
for each and every nation

with demos, good will, fair trade, all
sucked dry from all topographies
a cracked-earth, cordoned, craven world
of discord’s rank demographies

and with it all more wars will thrive
in all their sundry ways,
from guns and bombs to drones and bots
to nuclear array

and so I fear that Death will come
to rule the livelong day

and then with ease blood seas will fill
once-could-be springtime streets,
and fish will nibble bashed-out brains
that schemed their own defeat

and so at last we’ll rue we hadn’t
dissed the tough decisions,
shunned prudence, foresight, skill, and guts
and doomed a higher vision

but when I woke my love and whispered
all I’d dreamed and what I feared,
my love first flinched, then, calm, insisted,
“you must do more than shedding tears

“for what you fear will surely come
so plentifully, in clover,
if those of us who’d like your Street
stay passive till it’s over

“of course we’re foolish not to see
your Street’s a perfect Neverland,
but we’d be ghoulish if we flee
from striving to make it Everland

“’cause if we strive we’ll celebrate
the stuff that life is made of,
and not buy in to self-defeat
and all that we’re afraid of

“that way—you bet—we’ll bring ourselves
as close as we can come—
‘cause it takes balls, no santa claus—
to streets of the springtime sun”

Author’s Notes: “Shopping Street of the Eternal Springtime Sun”—a poem concerned with environmental justice and other key, global social justice issues—utilizes a light verse style, including, for the most part, a whimsical tone (with a gothic-apocalyptic interlude), sing-song rhyming with hip-hop inflections, and line endings that closely parse the syntax as a means of both heightening and leavening, by contrast, the seriousness of the subject matter: an evocation of alternative utopian and dystopian futures leading to a call to action to, as much as possible, realize the former and avoid the later. Though rough notes and initial drafts began earlier, “Shopping Street” experienced the bulk of its creation during the rise to power of D****d T***p within the US Republican Party and received its final revisions in the wake of T***p’s election and impending inauguration as 45th president of the United States.

A particular challenge in composing and revising this poem has been anchoring and interweaving its often conceptual content with resonating concrete images and other sensory elements.

The poem’s original inspiration came in an afternoon walk with a lover on a beautiful spring day in the hills overlooking Kamakura, Japan – an area of abundant natural beauty by the sea about an hour’s train ride south of Tokyo. The route we took descended, with seamless effect, from the hills into the most pleasant pedestrian shopping street I recall ever experiencing – this street serving as a sensory catalyst for the utopian shopping street of the poem.

This inspiration combined with my reading of Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature—a book which offers hope for humankind’s future through the continued nurturing and enhancement of societal institutions, values, policies, laws, customs, and other guidelines and behaviors which are outgrowths of various human virtues, among them a capacity for enlightened reasoning and an expanding circle of empathy that includes all of humankind—to produce the core of the poem’s content and energy. 

Countering the hopefulness of Pinker’s vision is the ongoing planetary emergency posed by global warming resulting from anthropogenic climate change and its numerous potential—and already to some degree ongoing—disasters, among them, according to recent research, the possibility within this century of multi-meter sea level rise and super storms of unprecedented, within the span of human history, destructive power, both of which are touched on in the poem.

Although a number, at least, of the world’s nations now seem—especially with the coming into effect of the Paris Agreement on combatting climate change—to be focusing significant resources on achieving the goal of a transition to a world of 100% clean energy, it is sometimes difficult, given the climate-related policies of the 45th POTUS and the continuing inadequate pace, globally, of this transition thus far, to avoid feelings of despair. The poem addresses such feelings as well, ending, in its final stanzas with an exhortation, however blunt in its quaint simplicity (but again leavened, I hope, by a tone of playful whimsy), to transform such despair into useful action. Though my belief in the efficacy of such exhortations, and of making the efforts exhorted, is far from firm, I at least like to believe, and to make the efforts.

John Brooks is a writer, child sexual abuse survivor-activist, climate change activist, and animal rights activist (among other things, of course) deeply concerned with anthropogenic global warming and its massively dystopian consequences if humanity’s thoroughly inadequate—though in some locations and respects noticeably improving—response continues. His self-published novella Preludes depicting the horror of child sexual abuse from a child’s perspective, has received a number of favorable reviews by readers. @jbwriting