Archives for posts with tag: conservation

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Little ways to heal the planet
by Steven Deutsch

My mother told us—
“If you turn the light on,
then turn the light off.
Learn to love the dark
you will reside there
soon enough.”

She insisted we earn
a shower—
“worked up a sweat, did you,
sitting in your chair reading?”
And reminded us that cold
water cleaned
as well as hot.

Mom told us
It was the little things—
conserve, conserve
conserve and sabotage
a coal refinery.

Dad told us we might
take the car
only If we had a definite place to go—
reminding us that our two legs
were remarkably useful
for locomotion.

He taught us to repair
everything with simple tools
that fit nicely in your hand.
“This was once expensive,”
he often said,
“and doesn’t belong
in a landfill.”

Dad told us
it was the little things.
Do it yourself, do it yourself
do it yourself and short-circuit
the power grid.

My grandmother—
a woman of kindness
and depth,
taught us to read
by candlelight—
her mantra—
“better than tv.”

She’d say it was
the little things.
and taught us to
meditate and to make
bombs from leftover
household products.
“All power to the people”
she’d shout from her
rocker—raising her
arthritic fist as high as
she might.

PAINTING: Still Life with Candle by David Ligare (1999).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is a mix of the practical and the fanciful. I didn’t set out to write it this way, but we will need a mix of the practical and the creative to even attempt to fix global warming. So I think it fits.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Steven Deutsch has been widely published, both online and in print. Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, he is poetry editor for Centered Magazine. His chapbook, Perhaps You Can, was published in 2019 by Kelsay Books, which published his full-length book, Persistence of Memory,  in 2020. Steve’s third book of poetry, Going, Going, Gone, was recently published. Find more of his work at

Earth Care
by Martin Willitts Jr

I worked every summer on my grandparents’ farm
where they were using the old methods of hand
plowing, rotating crops, using manure in the soil,
never hearing the word organic. Earth-care was a part
of fulfilling God’s plan, a kind of prayer, greeting
each day before the sunrise and staying up past
starburst nights watching daily creation.

I tended to the barn animals, pulling milk into a pail
or searching for eggs, before pushing the plow.
I was too young to know about the fragile nature of earth,
the interconnectedness of land and water, mass extinctions,
but I was conversant with the language of the bees.

What I knew was rotate crops, plant seed, trust irrigation,
withstand grandmother’s interrogation: did I thank God
when I opened the land, and did I praise the seed
before covering it? When the crops were ready, we thanked
the plants for their offerings. Every praise was gratitude,
respecting the land. I never heard of crop dusting,
herbicides, or large farm monopolies.

Planting with intention means being intentional,
aware some plants deplete the soil,
and some plants work together with other plants.

As an adult, I learn not everyone respects the land —
tearing mountain tops for strip mining, dumping
toxic waste, using neon lights that hide the night sky.
Water levels rise with excuses. All I can do is
plant some trees, start community gardens, and hope
people younger than me are smarter than my generation.
Earth care is human care. At night I ask, “What else can I do?”

I keep receiving suggestions.

PAINTING: Pasture with Barns, Cos Cob (Connecticut) by John Henry Twachtman (1853-1902).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I started working on my grandparents’ farm when I was five. When I was 17, I was drafted, my grandparents died one day apart from each other, and the farm was taken by the bank. I wrote about my farming years in Harvest Time (Deerbrook Editions, 2021). For years, I never stayed in one place for very long, until about 2009 when I finally had a house to grow food and healing plants. All the earth-care I had learned as a child is now called organic and free-range. But over the years, I have seen the destruction of the land affecting my small space. When I moved in, the soil was grey and didn’t contain any nitrates, but, with my training, I made the soil rich again in a few months. The first sign of life was the return of worms and crickets. But, still, the weather is changing and I’m trying to keep pace. ¶ Food that I grew back in 2009, became impossible two years later. The first vegetable to be harmed was broccoli, and years later five other plants don’t have the right weather conditions to grow. This is visual proof of the harm to the environment. A couple years ago, I noticed food insufficiency and started community gardens. This year I was group planting trees. At my age, it is getting harder to do big projects, so I am looking for small, manageable ones to keep trying to help the soil. ¶ I swear, sometimes I hear the earth’s pain. The only thing I can do is do whatever I can as long as I can. I want a better future for children.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Martin Willitts Jr, edits the Comstock Review and judges the New York State Fair Poetry Contest. His work has been nominated for 17 Pushcart and 13 Best of the Net awards. His awards include: Winner of the 2014 Dylan Thomas International Poetry Contest; Rattle Ekphrastic Challenge, 2015, Editor’s Choice; Rattle Ekphrastic Challenge, Artist’s Choice, 2016; Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Prize, 2018; and Editor’s Choice, Rattle Ekphrastic Challenge, 2020. His 25 chapbooks include the Turtle Island Quarterly Editor’s Choice Award winner The Wire Fence Holding Back the World (Flowstone Press, 2017), plus 21 full-length collections, including Blue Light Award winner The Temporary World. His most recent book is Harvest Time (Deerbrook Editions, 2021), and his forthcoming collection is All Wars Are the Same War (FutureCycle Press, 2022).

A Manual for How to Heal the Earth
by Ruth Weinstein

Chapter 1
Do not read this seeking hyperbolic beauty.
No awe-inspiring vistas here, no elegiac passions,

only a short manual on how to live a modest life,
and, perhaps, how to hold hope for a planetary future.

Chapter 1: Consider your consumption of water.
Collect a trio of gallon buckets or unused cooking pots.

Place one in your bathtub, one in your bathroom sink.
They will lend a funky note to your otherwise beautiful

tiled haven of long showers and candle-scented hot baths.
You may soon find a place for the third, but before you

you shower, catch each drop of cold water swirling
(counter)clock wise down the drain. Water house plants

with saved water after the city chlorine has evaporated.
Capture the gray water when you wash your hands

and brush your bright smile reflected in the mirror.
Use it to flush the toilet. There now, you have not

replenished dried riverbeds, but don’t you feel better?
Isn’t the parched part of your sad heart drinking rain?

Your third vessel is still empty. Catch more water and
soak for a week all your bucket lists of wanting. Watch

how gray water dulls the glitter of incessant desires.
Contemplate the meaning of each drop, each separate

spherical offering of water longing for oceanic union.
Live with chapter 1 for a year. Then with the fluidity of

water write your own Chapter 2—a practical manual
of poems about how to heal our only beautiful blue dot.

PAINTING: Untitled (Warm Water) by Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1988).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: In a long ago former life, Ruth Weinstein taught high school English in Philadelphia, English as a Foreign Language in Japan, and English as a Second Language in Arkansas. For nearly 45 years, however, she has focused on organic gardening; writing poetry, essays and memoir; and making both functional and art pieces in a variety of textile media. She has won awards for poems about how gardening and food affect personal and community relationships. She and her husband live on their 40-acre wooded homestead in the Arkansas Ozarks.

I do not know how to heal the earth
by Julia Klatt Singer

I pull the nail
that has gone through his shoe
into his foot

Out with my thumb and index finger
(grateful I didn’t need to use a hammer.)
Its takes the pain with it.

When he falls from the monkey bars
and bruises his knees
we watch as the colors

Shift from midnight blue
to olive, then, the yellow
we name pickled mustard.

We name the fall
How to make a sunset
with a body.

That night I dream my city becomes
a forest. Pines usher us in
to the maple and birch groves.

We walk broken sidewalks lined with pear and apple trees.
Ride with a fig in the elevator to the top floor
where aspens quake in the wind.

We eat the air.
We drink the rain.
We let the light leave.

We love the light
but we let it go. Know we will find it
resting on the edge of snow, trapped

in ice. I do not know how to heal the earth
only to love it.
I follow the light through the leaves

Lay with it in the velvet grass,
find the world
in a drop of water.

PAINTING: Landscape at Fontainebleau Forest by Abbott Handerson Thayer (1876).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I work at a preschool, so there’s a fair amount of healing that goes on.  Usually a hug or ice pack, followed by a bandage, does it. And for days following a bump or blister, we talk about the healing. I also have two grown boys and vividly remember the accidents and blood that followed. Even with time, we do not forget some of them. Always, the intention to do no more harm. To acknowledge the pain, the time things take, and the incredible work of healing.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Julia Klatt Singer is co-author of Twelve Branches: Stories from St. Paul (Coffee House Press), author of In the Dreamed of Places (Naissance Press), A Tangled Path to Heaven, Untranslatable (North Star Press), and Elemental (Prolific Press) poems written to the periodic table. Audio poems from Elemental are at OpenKim as the element Sp. She’s co-written numerous songs with composers Craig Carnahan, Jocelyn Hagen, and Tim Takach. She is the poet in residence at Grace Neighborhood Nursery School.

Waiters Encourage Us, and Squirrels
by Jonathan Yungkans

scamper, hoarding orbs of broomcorn and sawtoothing sunflower seeds, shell
and greed much as nutrition. Is it really as unpretentious as our
scattered, food-stained napkins and latte-scented paper cups rolled onto

random recollections, washed with rainwater toward a kaleidoscope
plastic ocean, lethargic as pond scum in blockage. It’s like something
our parents may have told us, loud and long—“Clean up your room!” I bulldozed

what must’ve been a garbage yard’s worth of mess in the nether regions
deep underneath my bed so my mom would let me shop for a plastic
model car, as if the tide were calling me even then. Didn’t know

I was being so adult and millennial, a generation
or two before bright red, sky and navy blues and clear as no bell I
could imagine Glad Wrap to sound—all glittery and suffocating,

and all of it putting a toxic spin on the name Pacific, gulls
and whales stuffed tight with it. I’m thinking of the squirrels again, picking up
and devouring what feels like hours, as if anyone could taste

time. let alone starve from the lack of it. As if we could all be cooks
and eat our mistakes. Or John-Boy Walton on Night Gallery, clearing
away a rich-man’s feast like a good waiter, stealing every crumb home—

to find the meal laid before his deceased father, having to consume
all the moral refuge wrapped in spiced meats, bread, cakes—a generation
of trash like the stuff gone to sea, field and concrete. Maybe it’s the squirrels

and my obsessive neighbor who have the right idea. Collecting crimes
and missed demeanors like so many seeds. And seeds they are—weeds or vines
of aluminum, plastic, desiccated tree—or maybe bread crumbs

snowflaked onto white linen, removed with a whisk of a metal tool.

PAINTING: Magenta Squirrel by Robert Zakanitch (2004).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I leave seed in my yard for the birds and the neighborhood squirrels arrive for more than their fair share—more a service than a nuisance, since it leaves less for rodents to find after dark. When I read the line in John Ashbery’s poem “Musica Reservata” which became the title here, I remembered these daily antics. The neighbor mentioned in the poem suffers twofold—from obsessive-compulsive disorder and from caring so much about the trash people leave, which, living across the street from a college campus, is frequently considerable. My heart goes out to him. At the same time, I also think, more power to him. I should do so more myself.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jonathan Yungkans is a Los Angeles-based writer who was recently featured in The International Literary Quarterly‘s online anthology of California poets. His work has appeared in MacQueen’s Quinterly, Panoply, Synkroniciti and a number of other publications. His second poetry chapbook, Beneath a Glazed Shimmer, won the 2019 Clockwise Chapbook Prize and was published by Tebor Bach in 2021.

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.

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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.

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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.