Archives for category: HOW TO HEAL THE EARTH

This Changes Everything
by Cynthia Anderson

From time out of mind, calling a Deep Witness has been regarded as a last resort. Dressed in black, androgynous, they enter unobtrusively, eyes cast downward—yet no one present can escape their gaze. They stand silent, radiating lasers of truth, changing everyone around them. Feuds fall apart, poisoned lifeways dissolve, the tyranny of the familiar vanishes as though it never existed. Those affected are faced with starting over, finding a way to live without falsehoods, groping along the lines of their breath.

mountain path
just when we need it
a mercy seat

PAINTING: Cave Wall Guardians by David Chethlahe Paladin (1972).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: It seems to me that all humans are being called right now to act as Deep Witnesses. Whether we heed the call or not is up to each of us. Greta is showing us how it’s done. Deep Witnesses are right here, right now, and they can be denied only at our peril. In this haibun, I’m imagining a world where everyone finally acknowledges that there’s no turning back. There’s no continuing to live the way we have been. And maybe, just maybe, there’s a chance we might get some unexpected help. The “mercy seat” refers to the Ark of the Covenant. I like to imagine spiritual forces coming to our aid on this long climb to save the planet. I was inspired by this line from the call for submissions: “We are looking for ideas (real or imagined) of ways to heal the earth.” And, “your poem can offer fanciful thoughts that defy the practical.” So, my haibun is different from a straight list of what I’m doing to save the earth. Like most everybody else who’s contributing, I’m changing the way I live—cutting back on waste, going solar, composting, etc. So, for this theme, I wanted to try something outside the box.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cynthia Anderson lives in California’s Mojave Desert, which is in the process of dying from extreme heat and drought due to climate change. The majority of Joshua trees are expected to perish in this century, but, more than that, all desert plants and wildlife are affected and the damage is visible now. Recognizing that there is no time to lose, she is changing the way she lives on this earth as fast as she can. Visit her at

Blue-Sky Thinking
by Clive Collins

Me, age five, seated on the rug,
The room snug and heated
By an open fire of coal.
But outside, the day dark grey
Since morning, turning black.
Fog or smog, my mother says.
“Another starless night, son.
A week of this we’ve had.
Your Daddy will be late
Again, and his chest so bad.”
But on the radio, the voice
Of Daphne Oxenford asks
Am I sitting comfortably?
I say I am, and she begins
A tale, a song, a rhyme.

Years pass and in that time
I’ve sat in ever greater comfort,
The smog abolished, and
By Act of Parliament no less.
Cheap heat, cheap food, cheap clothes,
A car or three, TVs and stereos,
Holidays in the South of France,
Italy, Morocco, Miami, and L.A.
The Caribbean even.

But if dear old Daphne O.
Were here today, her question
Now might be, “Are you sitting
Uncomfortably?” She isn’t here
But I am, so I’ll begin a tale
Or start to sing a ditty, rhyme
Some words on giving up
And paying more, trying to replenish
The planet’s ever-dwindling store.
Put on more clothes in winter please,
Not the heat. Try in summertime
As best you can to tolerate
The climate we’ve created. Pay fairly
For the food you eat. Don’t, unless you
Absolutely must, buy meat. Give up cars.
Use your feet or bike or bus or train.
Do the very best you can not to take
A ‘plane.

My own time here’s so nearly done.
I know the legacy I leave is poor
A ruin even. Still, before I close
The door behind me, I feel
I owe it to the young to help
Them inherit something at least
Beginning to heal.

And so, Cassandra-like, I tell you all
The fault most definitely is
Within ourselves and not the stars –
Or words to that effect. (Apologies
Due here to Master Will Shakespeare.)
We cannot change the stars,
Though ruin them we might
Should we ever get there,
Which God forbid, but maybe
We can make them seem to shine
At night a little bit more brightly,
A little bit more clear.

PAINTING: Cassandra and the Burning of Troy by Evelyn De Morgan (1898).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This piece began as a slow trickle of thoughts and then became a flood.  I remembered the killer fogs/smog of Britain in the 1950s and 1960s and how they were ameliorated by the Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968.  Sometimes it takes government to act on behalf of the individual, but now when it often feels as if governments are reluctant to act against the companies that increasingly control the planet then individuals must act. And that is the substance of the piece.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Born in Leicester, England, Clive Collins is the author of two novels, The Foreign Husband (Marion Boyars) and Sachiko’s Wedding (Marion Boyars/ Penguin Books). Misunderstandings, a collection of short stories, was joint-winner of the Macmillan Silver PEN Award in 1994. He was a short-listed finalist in the 2009 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction.  Carried Away and Other Stories is now available from Red Bird Chapbooks.

bears ears
Wild Places
by Janet Banks

Wolves hunt, elk rut, rattlers slither under
boulders, searching for shade
thunderclouds roil across mountains
miles away, curtains of rain to the west
sun blazing above useless fences
creatures wander, leave them be.
Wild places. Keep them free.

Drive, drive another hour, drive, keep driving
across the high desert plain, no services
next hundred miles: stop, turn back
survival not assured, no water jugs, provisions
spare tires, no place for strangers taking
chances, best heed the rules.
Wild places. Keep them free.

Uranium miners, hungry for treasures
lobby an assault, deregulation eviscerates
desert sand and rocks not worth much
money in the bank, oil-diggers covet
wildlife refuge on the northern coastal plain.
Wild places. Keep them free.

Lovers of wilderness, preserve
conserve, join caretakers of sacred lands
where generations of elders lie buried
deep, heroes to whom debts can
never be paid, their spirits rule.
Wild places. Keep us free.

PHOTO: Stars Over the Butte (Valley of the Gods, Bears Ears National Monument) by John Fowler.


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My poem celebrates that on October 8, 2021, President Biden signed Proclamation 9558, restoring the boundaries of the spectacularly beautiful Bears Ears to 1.36 million acres, and Grand Staircase-Escalante to 1.87 million acres. These two national monuments in southern Utah were established by President Obama shortly before he left office. They were downsized by 85% and 50% respectively, by executive order from then-President Trump. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland called Biden’s action to restore the land “profound,” saying, “Bears Ears is a living landscape. This is a place that must be protected in perpetuity for every American and every child of the world.”

PHOTO: The author at Bears Ears National Monument in May 2017, five months after President Obama designated the area a national monument. 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Janet Banks is a Boston-based writer actively exploring the joys and challenges of aging in real time. Her personal essays and poems have been published by Cognoscenti, The Rumpus, Entropy Magazine, Silver Birch Press, Persimmon Tree, Poetry and Covid, a project funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, Poetry and Places, as well as other online sites. Shortly after retiring from a corporate career, she was published in The Harvard Business Review. The essay was reprinted in HBR’s Summer 2020 Special Issue: “How to Lead in a Time of Crisis.”

I don’t know how to save the earth
by Scott Ferry

except for adults to study as hard
as children study for spelling bees
so that words like elucubrate
and eudaemonic don’t end up a victim
of vivisepulture (the act of burying alive).

Or for adults to study the Aye-aye the Axolotl
the Amazon River Dolphin all the way around
the shrinking alphabet to the Vaquita
the Vicuña and the Western Lowland Gorilla.
For adults to not bury themselves in the

carcasses of lost species like a reverse
Noah stacking pairs of corpses in an ark
to send into the ocean with the rest
of the plastic skins of dead refreshment.
There are no words for the smell

of our own children burning
in the pyre we have fashioned
with a caption and a rebate.
Our grandchildren will read about
our grave insouciance from under


PAINTING: Mother Earth as a Young Woman by Norval Morrisseau.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I tried to write a positive poem about this subject but I could only think to scare the adults straight with a cautionary tale. I thought about how many words children put into their heads preparing for spelling bees and how vast our potential for learning and progress. Yet, these abilities are squandered on advertising and profit for the most part. Like I said, I tried to be positive but the push for money is so strong that it just blows me over. I hope at least this dark poem may cause some of us adults to look into how to help and heal and fund what is necessary to save species from leaving us like most of our vocabularies into the graveyard of texts and memes.

ferry photo

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Scott Ferry helps our Veterans heal as a RN in the Seattle area. His most recent book, These Hands of Myrrh, is now available from Kelsay Books. You can find more of his work at

In the Mirror
by Shelly Blankman

The earth is fragile — our destiny in danger. From the tallest redwood
to the tiniest bumblebee, the planet is on the precipice of perishing.

Oil spills that blacken once sparkling seas can be skimmed. Snow-white
seabirds matted in black can be washed if they survive human intrusion.
We can reuse and recycle plastic and replace plastic with paper to prevent
oceans from becoming floating trash bins that maim and kill creatures of the sea.

But unless humans nurse the world’s wounds as a surgeon would a broken
spine enough to support all of its working parts, we will not heal.

Our needs are not only about us. We are part of all that surrounds us. When
the earth’s wounds hemorrhage, oceans dry, trees rot, and animals die, we
all share their fate. Beauty alone is not enough to thrive. It needs our collective
brain to survive.

It’s time to look in the mirror and see our faces reflected in the shadow of the earth,
once a gift, now in all its dying glory.

PAINTING: Water Dreaming with Rain and Lightning by Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula (1972).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shelly Blankman lives in Columbia, Maryland, where she and her husband have filled their empty nest with three rescue cats and a moppy mutt. Their sons flew the coop some years ago — one to New York and the other to Texas.  Following careers in journalism, public relations, and copy editing, Shelly now spends time writing poetry, scrapbooking, and making cards. Her poetry has appeared in The Ekphrastic Review, Poetry Super Highway, and Praxis Magazine, among others.

Sunrise Is Only a Question
by Sam Barbee

Rain is sleep, snow pain, wind
a kiss with furtive tongue.
Read the omens before turning
to another light, its new queries,
and dawn’s startle of sermons and sutras.
Darkness remains the perfected form.

Weary bartering with vile saints,
I have mellowed overnight, am wiser.
Resolved to convert era to epic, epoch to ode.
Pet my feral dread. No predator dare speak
because each understands I will leash them
to a hollow tree, promote their humiliation.

I jog the curvy road where the side-ditch
of weakness is adored – intersect a thin bridge.
Teeter out to marvel river’s width, maybe
swan-dive between sink and shiver.
Or walk the far road leading to a plain
of promises where ugliness bonds

with splendor. I should confess, but to whom?
Remedies emerge from discomfort,
but hope blends a dream and a prayer.
Daybreak can transform lacking into flourish.
Decipher which questions shall be addressed,
while which others will not.

PAINTING: Sunrise of Wonder by John Miller.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem reflects both the human misunderstanding of Mother Earth and how to treat her, how to acknowledge and look past our indiscretions with her, and a hint of optimism, I hope. I write every morning.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sam Barbee has a new collection, Uncommon Book of Prayer (2021, Main Street Rag).  His previous poetry collection, That Rain We Needed (2016, Press 53), was a nominee for the Roanoke-Chowan Award as one of North Carolina’s best poetry collections of 2016.  His poems have appeared recently in Poetry South, Literary Yard, Asheville Poetry Review, and Adelaide Literary Magazine, among others; plus the on-line journals American Diversity Report, Exquisite Pandemic, Verse Virtual, The Voices Project, and Medusa’s Kitchen. He is a two-time Pushcart nominee.  

Instituto Terra
by Barbara Leonhard

“Nature is the earth and it is other beings and if we don’t have some kind of spiritual return to our planet, I fear that we will be compromised.” Sebastião Salgado

All of nature, our neighbors.
Our yard, prolific with dandelions, plantain,
clover, violets. Even the unnamed white blossoms
embellishing the lawn each spring, allowed their display.
Our tall grasses trimming the yard
call in the fireflies. Butterfly gardens close by bloom
& groom Monarchs. Life forming. Transforming.
Flying free.

Our organic garden,
shared with a box turtle, birds,
deer, rabbits. A host
to our neighbor’s bees.
Our summer bounty, their honey.
The moles do their job, aerate the soil.
Possums eat the ticks. Bats & swifts, the pesky
mosquitoes. Coons, the small rodents
& wasp larvae. Balance, maintained
with reciprocity.

The ants swarming the kitchen each spring.
Tolerated. Our patio, a diner for doves,
cardinals, wrens. The fence, a highway
for squirrels & coons.
No need to fill tree hollows with Styrofoam.
The trees welcome guests. No need to trap
& release. We simply closed off the chimney.
Secured the trash barrel lid. Loving the furry
& the winged, the big & the small, our passion.

We don’t clear our land, uprooting the natives,
preening the view of our estate.
Management, a false sense of control.
Ivy sneaks through fence slats
across the stone patio floor
up the sides of the house.
A discarded pot of old dirt
sustains an oak sapling.
Gaia rebounds. Reclaims her grounds.

The cellular connection
between us and Gaia
doesn’t elude us. We don’t spray with pesticides
for the perfect lawn. Douse our garden
with toxic compounds to ward off insects,
increase yield.

We are Gaia. She, us.
What she eats, we eat.
We pollute her cells, we poison
our own. Contaminants seep deep into her soul
& our graves.

Her healing is our life.

PAINTING: Deer in the Forest by Franz Marc (1913).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The story of the Brazilian couple who regrew a forest from arid land inspires me because it shows how the depth of their love for earth healed the depleted soil and themselves. Although I have never regrown a forest, my husband and I live in peace with spiders, coons, slugs, and squirrels. We coexist with Mother Nature, feeding her birds and keeping poisons off our lawn and garden plants. We understand the balance of nature and cooperate with all living things because we realize that we are all connected. Disruption of our biological connections to all living things creates imbalance and illness, not just for Mother Earth but also for us. If the damage is reciprocal, so too is the healing.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Barbara Leonhard’s work is published in Spillwords, Anti-Heroin Chic, Free Verse Revolution, October Hill Magazine, Vita Brevis, Silver Birch Press, Amethyst Review, among others. This year Barbara earned both third place and honorary mention for two poems in Well Versed 2021. She is currently marketing her first poetry collection about her relationship with her mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s. From that memoir collection, her poem “Cooking a Life with a Wire Spine” was nominated for Publication of the Month on Spillwords in August 2021, and Barbara was voted Spillword’s Author of the Month in October. You can keep up with her journey on her blog site, Her poetry podcast, “Poetry: The Memoir of the Soul”. can be found at

by Ed Ruzicka

I look forward to off elections
when candidates for judge and city council
post out stiff fliers. Mug shots up front.
On the back, themselves stiff and proud beside their brood.
They brag in red white and blue, a lot of blue, Prussian blue.

The paper is almost razor thin but strong
and bows well enough to sweep up shattered glass
cleaner than any dustpan from the Walmart aisles.

This is what my grandma taught.
Cling to a nickel, squeeze a dime.
Let nothing go in the trash bin
unless you’re absolutely sure
it has no other use.

Bread ties fasten folded extension cords
Worn shirts can be scissored in strips to tie tomato stalks.
Keep safety pins in an emptied throat lozenge tin.
Line the trash can with a bag from Qwik Mart.

Once folks didn’t have much. Now we do.
I cling to the old ways, save what I can:
a paper clip, plastic, whale’s baleens,
the bellies of ravens. Like grandma,
I live the way a mite does in a wall crack,
take great joy in being a curmudgeon

raised by frugal Czechs in a Midwest
where Februaries roar in like monsters
born in a Grimm’s fairy tale
and fear our future might
come back at us just that damn hard.

PHOTO: Rubber band globe by Donna O’Donoghue.

nico real doc Jn 2021 (2)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ed Ruzicka’s most recent book of poems, My Life in Cars, was released a year ago. Ed’s poems have appeared in the Atlanta Review, Rattle, Canary, the Xavier Review and the San Pedro River Review, as well as many other literary journals and anthologies. A finalist for the Dana Award and the New Millennium Award. Ed is an Occupational Therapist in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he lives with wife, Renee.

by Penelope Moffet

life itself — not human life — is the ultimate miracle upon this earth
— Farley Mowat, A Whale for the Killing

If I were
the size of
a moth
I’d live
in the leaves
of the hornless
woolly milkweed.
White fur
all around me,
the pendulous
of flowers
nectar to be drunk,
pollen to be carried
for the birth
of seedlings.
In the season of milk,
the time
of leaves’
easily released
sticky juice,
I’d thrive.

Too small
to be seen
by men with rifles
who spill from cities
to hunt
slim deer
up canyons,
who would
gun down
a whale
in a saltwater pond
linked to the sea
by channel
deep enough for passage
when full moon
high tide
with storm.
Too small
to be one
of those men

In the hills
I love
suck nectar
from the hearts
of flowers—
phacelia, poppy,
white sage,
and make
in the throat
of bindweed’s
cream trumpet
a bee caresses
each pistil
with all
his feet,
to the next cup.
What he takes
he repays

The world’s
a stomach
eating and
excreting and
there are
no gentle
what can’t

I don’t want
to be a
like Jeffers
on his
craggy coast

mild enough
to creep
the deep-veined
milkweed leaves

what I need.

First published, in slightly different form, in Keeping Still (Dorland Mountain Arts, 1995).

PAINTING: Butterflies by Fujishima Takeji (1867-1943).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this poem in the early 1990s, on one of my writing retreats at Dorland Mountain Arts, a creative community near Temecula, CA. I had just read Farley Mowat’s brilliant, beautiful and infuriating book, A Whale for the Killing, the story of a Fin Whale that became trapped in a cove on the southwest coast of Newfoundland, where it was first marveled at and then tortured by the local humans. That book had the effect of making me want to leave my species and become something else. But we can’t leave our species. We have to try to make our relationship with the world better.

moffet1 copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Penelope Moffet is the author of It Isn’t That They Mean to Kill You (Arroyo Seco Press, 2018) and Keeping Still (Dorland Mountain Arts, 1995).  Her poems have been published in Gleam, One, Natural Bridge, Permafrost, Pearl, The Rise Up Review, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, The Ekphrastic Review, Verse-Virtual, The Missouri Review, and other literary journals, as well as in several anthologies, including What Wildness Is This: Women Write about the Southwest (University of Texas Press, 2007), Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes & Shifts of Los Angeles (Tia Chucha Press, 2016), Floored (Kingly Street Press, 2020) and California Fire & Water: A Climate Crisis Anthology (Story Street Press, 2020).

oaks ivan shishkin
by Robbi Nester

I look for wisdom to the oldest trees, redwoods and sequoias,
old Druid oaks. You can trace their history in hollow trunks
and broken branches, blight and lightning scars on bark.
They’ve survived the fall of Angkor Wat and Carthage,
seen the rise of nations like Palau. If they ever ponder
the end of everything, they know even the oldest
trees will fall, the forests burn or be covered
by the sea. It wouldn’t be the first time.
I’m aware of Earth’s ongoing extinctions, oceans
paved with plastic waste, but they must feel it
in their roots. Maybe they foresee a world
that we can’t fathom, where new green
shoots will someday rise, renewed.

PAINTING: Oaks by Ivan Shishkin (1832-1898).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I have written many poems about the climate crisis and the disasters it has spawned, but few about possible solutions to this problem. However, it strikes me that since the solution to so many medical problems has come from the natural world, particularly from forests and trees, perhaps the answer to this one lies there as well.

Robbi portrait, 2019 copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robbi Nester is a retired college educator and author of four books of poetry and editor of three anthologies. Her poetry, reviews, articles, and essays have been widely published, appearing or forthcoming most recently in California Quarterly, Tampa Review, Spillway, Sheila Na Gig, Book of Matches, Verse Virtual, Live Encounters, SWWIM, MacQueen’s Quinterly, and many others. Visit her at