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Monday, June 01, 2020


by Pepper Trail

A highway leading to downtown Los Angeles, California, is empty last month during the coronavirus pandemic. The view of downtown is clearer than usual as the city and the world sharply cut daily carbon dioxide emissions. But a new scientific study says the long-term effects of months-long reduction will be quite small. —AP, May 19, 2020 Photo:Mark J. Terrill/AP

Outside the window, a billion tons of CO2 are not there
I take the billion tons, wrap my arms around them
Muscle them down, get them into a shape I can handle
Fold them, fold them again, and smaller again,
Press them at last into what else but a diamond
Put it in a box for my daughter, for her wedding
If I would have a daughter, if she would have a wedding

Outside the window, 375,000 people are not there
One sang “Angel from Montgomery”—you can hear the echo
One thought the disease was a joke, until it wasn’t
One gave me the key to all the plants, and I have it still
They are beating against my window softly as moths
Against all the windows, and we look through them
When we look out, which is what we are always doing

Outside the window, my father and mother are not there
They left in good time, and were spared this particular nothing
My father is free to walk the Carolina forest, forever looking
Quietly content with bird or frog, bloodroot or lady-slipper
My mother can sing in her choir, too short to be seen
Behind the ranks of Easter lilies and the tall candles
But I know she is there, and I know where he has gone

Outside the window, my life is not there
The flight to Australia, the places never to be seen
The meal in the restaurant where we would have quarreled
Or where I would have said you were right, all along
The baseball games, your art show, the old too and fro
They say if you add it all up, it makes a billion tons
And also that, in the end, it makes no difference at all

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.