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Tuesday, August 28, 2018


by Pepper Trail

"The T***p administration has hailed its overhaul of federal pollution restrictions on coal-burning power plants as creating new jobs, eliminating burdensome government regulations and ending what President T***p has long described as a 'war on coal.' The administration’s own analysis, however, revealed on Tuesday that the new rules could also lead to as many as 1,400 premature deaths annually by 2030 from an increase in the extremely fine particulate matter that is linked to heart and lung disease, up to 15,000 new cases of upper respiratory problems, a rise in bronchitis, and tens of thousands of missed school days. "—The New York Times, August 21, 2018

Edenton, North Carolina

Mother, your breath shallow and slow, almost gone
Barely moving the sheet on your hospice bed

You are reluctant, now, to inhale
To bring in the world, its noise and its pain

So much easier to breathe out, to gentle
And at the end of that emptying, to stop

But the stubborn body kicks, the heart turns over
Begins again, will not yet let you go

Mother, it’s all right.  You are strong
Nothing, in the end, will stop your dying

Ashland, Oregon

The world, the west, is on fire
Vancouver to Yosemite, all tinder, alight

Halfway between, we must breathe
What air there is, what we are given

When we speak, smoke is what we say
And so we have stopped speaking

The mountains are gone, the valley
Through the windows, everything

The smoke is where we live now
What we breathe in, and then out

Washington, DC

He does not mind the world, the President
Thoughtless, he inhales its floods and its flames

Exhales this atmosphere in which we live
Gives us, this week, the “Affordable Clean Energy Plan”

Not Affordable, or Clean, or Energy, or a Plan
Simply another act in a lifelong history of harm

Power plants, cars, planes, you all and me
Together, we contribute: 408 parts per million

We are told there is nothing to be done
We are told there is no choice.  Just breathe

Pepper Trail is a poet and naturalist based in Ashland, Oregon. His poetry has appeared in Rattle, Atlanta Review, Spillway, Kyoto Journal, Cascadia Review, and other publications, and has been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net awards. His collection Cascade-Siskiyou was a finalist for the 2016 Oregon Book Award in Poetry. In his spare time, he leads natural history tours around the world.