nc new year
To Keep the Earth
by Maura High

The earth knows change,
how to
gash, slump, blow away.
Its other names
are dust and slurry,
grike and clint,
boulder, cobble, gravel,
sand, silt, clay.
It undoes
itself and heals—the undoing
is its remaking.

In the woods, what falls
gives way
to other creatures.

What I mean is that earth is.
Earth does
earth. I understand
the wound is here,
in the clear-cut
forty acres upstream,
in our washed-out
playground, the lost
woodpeckers and warblers,
in the guns and bunch fellers.

In the great weight
of what it is to be human.

The child who disrupts
a trail of ants, or picks
five flowers to give to his mother,
or throws
rock after rock into the creek
to hear them splash,
is a child.

It seems we must know
to keep the earth
well enough to live in it.
Know the trees living
together, or falling,
branch and twig and leaf,
the creek’s channel
as it shifts, and still
gathers runoff
and anything else it can carry down.

PHOTO: Franklin County, North Carolina (Dawn of Jan. 1, 2015) by Jim Liestman.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem, “To Keep the Earth,” grows out of my long acquaintance with the local Piedmont environment in North Carolina, which changes with the season and from year to year. There’s always something new out there, a fungus or a plant I have not identified before, a bird I have never seen so close. I have learned something about geomorphology along my way, and the multiple mechanical and chemical processes that go into the shaping of the earth’s surface still intrigue me. Humans are directing and accelerating change, and much will never come back, much is lost. If we are to survive here, we must work together, with knowledge and understanding.

High copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Maura High was born in Wales, and lives now in North Carolina, where she has worked as an editor, a volunteer with controlled burn crews for The Nature Conservancy, and an advocate and activist for poetry in the community. Her website,, lists her print and online publications, including a chapbook, The Garden of Persuasions (Jacar Press), and individual poems in The Phare, Rhino, Passager, The Southern Review, Tar River Quarterly, and New England Review, with samples both written and recorded. The website also features details about her family and roots in Wales.