Archives for posts with tag: ecosystems

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

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

fairview-tennis-courts copy
Fragments from The Last—And Only—Anthropocene:
“We must love the perishable earth…”

by Andrew Mulvania

—after Adam Zagajewski, Michael Harper, and John Coltrane

We must love the perishable earth, our perishable life,
birdsong (for the time being) in the mornings and at evening,
matutinal and crepuscular; must love words like “matutinal”
and “crepuscular”; must love language
that allows us to say, “We must love”;
love the spring green in the stand of hickory beside the municipal tennis courts
off Fairview Avenue, vibrant this morning as a bamboo forest
halfway across this perishable world and earth—
in Thailand, say, or Burma—
against the blue rubber surface of the courts;
must love my girlfriend’s son’s school, La Petite Ecole—
a French-language immersion school—toward which I’m walking,
or “strolling,” rather, after dropping my own son off at his school,
Fairview Elementary; must love sons, and foreign languages,
and immersion, and girlfriends; must love immersion in language
and girlfriends, this beautiful body one can immerse in another’s
the better to know this life, this earth; must love
the emulsion that comes from such an immersion
that brings about more life, on more worlds, more earths—no:
there is only one earth this morning, one world,
the one upon which I’m standing right now while it’s spinning
as I’m stretching my legs first on a stone bench,
and then on this stone picnic table
whose legs look like a Grecian urn described in a poem by Keats,
poor perishable Keats, the tragic poet, dead at 25 of tuberculosis—
how’s that for some perishing!—
and I’m standing and stretching and spinning
while the sun rises higher and higher behind gray clouds
in an overcast sky, rising and rising as if saying or repeating
the phrase: “must love, must love, must love.”

PHOTO: Fairview Tennis Courts, Columbia, Missouri. (Photo found at


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When my son was still in elementary school, I walked him to school on the mornings he was with me, and then—much as the poem describes—I would proceed down the sidewalk to meet my girlfriend at the time (now my wife!) as she was dropping off her own son at his pre-school (the two schools just happened to be a short walk apart). ¶ On one of these routine morning walks—it was just after a rain, as spring was coming on, and the birds were chirping loudly in the early morning air as the sun was just beginning to peek through the clouds, and the whole landscape was gloriously adorned in its new spring raiment after a long, hard Missouri winter—I was struck (as I’m sure everyone has been at some point in their lives) by the sheer beauty of the spring morning and how fresh and new everything looked, in spite of all we have done to mar the earth (as the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins puts it in “God’s Grandeur”: “Generations have trod, have trod, have trod; / And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;…// And for all this, nature is never spent; / There lives the dearest freshness deep down things”). I didn’t have a pen and notebook with me, so I pulled out my smartphone and started writing, pausing at the tennis courts nearby to stretch and reflect. By the time I’d reached my girlfriend’s son’s school, I had a draft of the poem finished. ¶ Ever since “Try to Praise the Mutilated World” was published in the New Yorker shortly after 9/11, I have been deeply moved by the late Adam Zagajewski’s masterful poem and its charge that we must find a way to love and praise the fragmentary and ephemeral beauty of the world, despite the violence we have inflicted upon it—and one another. As a practicing Buddhist, I realize—looking back on the poem—that I was really sending Metta (loving-kindness) to the earth, and, with it, all the people I love on this earth, even while recognizing the impermanence of all of it. This comes through also in the references to largely-Buddhist countries like Burma and Thailand that have been devastated by violence of various kinds (deforestation in Thailand that has affected the way of life of monks in the Thai Forest Tradition, and the Rohingya Genocide in Myanmar/Burma).

PHOTO: The Big Tree in Springtime. Photo of a 400-year-old oak near Columbia, Missouri, by Heath Cajandig (May 31, 2016). 

Photo-Andrew-Mulvania-350x466 copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andrew Mulvania is the author of a collection of poems, Also in Arcadia, published by the Backwaters Press (an imprint of The University of Nebraska Press) in 2008. Recent poems have appeared in Chicago Quarterly Review and Smartish Pace. He has twice been a writer-in-residence at the Chautauqua Institute and was awarded an Individual Creative Artists Fellowship in Poetry from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. He teaches in the Writing Across the Curriculum program for University of Maryland Global Campus and lives in Columbia, Missouri.

wild raspberries bagsgroove
Wild Raspberries
(a Duplex)
by Julie Standig

On a bad news day we picked wild raspberries.
They were tart, but not distasteful—a little like us.

          The jelly rings went sour and left a tart lingering taste.
          Three deaths, one hastened, one forlorn, one unborn.

Three lives hastened, unborn, forlorn, have left their mark.
She could not recall which leg had the smooth, oval, snake bite.

          Lilith’s bite is worse than a snake’s and leaves a smooth oval stain.
          The old woman believed every death was merely an end of story.

Do not end the story on an old woman’s belief.
The goal is to ingest every word in every book he wrote.

          Every book, every word he wrote is a most worthy goal.
          The deep ache is a reminder to keep breathing. Keep breathing.

Keep breathing. Despite the deep ache. Keep breathing.
We picked wild raspberries on a day full of bad news.

PHOTO: Wild Raspberries by Bagsgroove (2016).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In a favorite workshop, we were discussing Jericho Brown’s poetic form, Duplex. And I was fairly certain this was not a form for me and my skills. Which only meant, I had a need to try doing a duplex poem. My biggest motivation when writing any form, is one main requirement: it must have significant meaning to me in order for the writing to become impassioned. Nothing less will do.

julie standigABOUT THE AUTHOR: Julie Standig has studied at the Unterberg Poetry Center, participated in Writer’s Voice and was an active member of a private workshop in New York City. A lifetime New Yorker, she made Bucks County her home not long before this pandemic and proudly became a member of the late Dr. Chris Bursk’s springtime workshop. She continues to write with many of those talented poets. Julie has been published in Alehouse Press, Arsenic Lobster and Covenant of the Generations, Sadie Girl Press,  Schuylkill Journal Review, US1 Poets/Del Val as well as the online journals, Rats Ass Review and Silver Birch Press. Her first chapbook, Memsahib Memoir was released by Plan B Press, and she is currently working on a full volume collection of poetry.

Sledding the Valley of the Shadow
by Laura Foley

We’re burning the Earth. We’re burning the sky.
                         —Deena Metzger

           I know the burning’s true,
so I won’t be throwing snowballs
in the halls of Congress.

           After today’s snowfall, I grab jacket, hat, mittens,
tear down the steep drive on my orange sled,
beaming a path through the night with a light

           I hold between my knees
under the spread of winter constellations,
as dogs lope alongside.

                          In this northern woods valley,
we’re more likely to hear geese
than airplanes overhead.

                          I sled and snowshoe through cold winter days,
I know will last through my lifetime,
but still act for the generations after, including my own family.

                          I compost, recycle, keep bees,
have forgone meat for thirty years, and wonder how else to please,
whether being the change I’d like to see

                          will be enough to ease the anxiety
spreading like wildfire from teen to teen, every Greta or Deena grieving
the oblivion yet to come.

PHOTO: After sledding by Severin Demchuk on Unsplash.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I enjoy living in rural Vermont, where we have long, snowy winters, and a steep, winding driveway for sledding in fresh snow; but I fear for future generations. I will continue to do my part to address climate change—solar panels for heating; composting food waste; growing vegetables; not eating red meat; recycling. I hope these ideas spread around the globe, soon.

laura portraitMaine

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Laura Foley is the author of seven poetry collections. Why I Never Finished My Dissertation received a starred Kirkus Review and an Eric Hoffer Award. Her collection It’s This is forthcoming from Salmon Press. Her poems have won numerous awards and national recognition—read frequently by Garrison Keillor on The Writers Almanac; appearing in Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry. Laura lives with her wife, Clara Gimenez, among the hills of Vermont. Visit her at

  A Sestina for the Well-Being of Mother Earth
  by Jeannie E. Roberts
roberts 2
PHOTO:  Rush River, a 49.8-mile-long tributary of the Mississippi River in western Wisconsin. Photo by Aaron Gunnar.


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My dad played a pivotal role in my upbringing; he introduced me to the wonders and the importance of the outdoor environment. He registered our home, the land near the Rush River, called Stonehammer*, under the state’s tree conservation program. Here, we planted hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of white pine and other coniferous trees. I recall our long hikes along the river, through the meadow, forest, and woodlands removing other people’s trash; as we’d wander the land, he’d identify the various trees, plants, and wildflowers. Though the Rush River property was sold years ago (in fact, its new owner recently bulldozed both the house and the garage), I’ll remember it fondly, though sadly, too, for it was the last place I saw my dad in this corporeal life. His knowledge of botany was impressive and it stuck with me. When I identify a tree, plant, or wildflower and when I retrieve roadside refuse, I can thank my dad. My sestina honors my beloved father, Donald E. Roberts, our natural world, and the beautiful fragility of Mother Earth.

*Stonehammer refers to the name of the Rush River property with rock cliff, near the unincorporated town of Martell, in Pierce County, Wisconsin, USA.

PHOTO:  The Rush River with rock cliff (Stonehammer) by Jeannie E. Roberts.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeannie E. Roberts has authored seven books, five poetry collections and two illustrated children’s books. Her newest collection, As If Labyrinth—Pandemic Inspired Poems, was released by Kelsay Books in April 2021. She’s a nature enthusiast, Best of the Net award nominee, and a poetry editor of the online literary magazine Halfway Down the Stairs. For more, please visit: Jeannie E. Roberts | Poets & Writers (

Jim Morrison and I Head to Standing Rock
by Lindsey Martin-Bowen

Dakota Pipeline, North Dakota

When clouds form an eagle above a red sun,
and the Flint Hills and dried-up wheat fields
beckon us onward, we head east and north—

beyond the Great Plains and the narrow lanes
to which we’d become accustomed—after spinning
across sand in our chase for California dreams

of peace and love, still uncaptured. Here, police
shoot pepper spray and water cannons at 30 of us.
Security guards unleash dogs that maim six,

one a small child. Still, we clutch signs—black
crosses against a blue sky, where cirrus clouds
hover then become black knots of rain.

We clasp hands with the Standing Rock Sioux,
pray with them in a circle, and I ask Jim
if he wants to risk getting arrested.

He shakes his head. “We’ll help. But this is their
Wounded Knee. It isn’t to be fought by you—by me.”
He pulls out three fifties to leave for munitions.

I nod to agree, it’s the natives’ call. Even if it’s for all
of us, they must win it in these unaligned times
when the eagle cloud rises high on the horizon.

Previously published in (Tittynope Zine 2017). Forthcoming in the author’s collection Cashing Checks with Jim Morrison (redbat books 2023).

PHOTO: Native Americans demonstrate against the Dakota Access Pipeline in May 2021 at the Standing Rock Reservation, which straddles the border of North Dakota and South Dakota. Learn more at  Photo by Jolanda Kirpensteijn on Unsplash. 

morrison photo

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Years ago, when I (my persona) screamed down asphalt through mauve Kansas fields and the Flint Hills, rock shaman Jim Morrison crawled out of my car stereo while a yellow hornet on the windshield danced like a Kachina in a sand painting. It was magic. Perhaps. I still don’t know. Yet poems resulting from this encounter resulted in my third poetry book, CROSSING KANSAS with Jim Morrison. In it, Jim comes with me to find La Loba*, in hopes she’ll resurrect his bones. But the wolf woman refuses, and we go to Paris and the Père Lachaise Cemetery. There, Jim’s dark monument, wrought with graffiti, commemorates him. I’d thought this story had ended when I left him there. But I was wrong. He won’t leave me alone. He pushes into poems and ignoring his burial, often joins figures from everywhere—ancient Greece and Eleusinian mysteries, wild and wooly creatures in my “frenzies” poems, and post-modern philosophers. Even today, he whispers to me when I stare at a waffled, red-lace sky filled with popcorn clouds looming above our foothills.

*Wolf woman. Bone woman. According to Southwest legends (from various tribes and Mexican cultures), La Loba works with angels to gather bones of humans and wolves, then resurrect them. 

Photo of Jim Morrison, found in The Collected Works of Jim Morrison (June 2021). 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Pushcart and Pulitzer nominee Lindsey Martin-Bowen’s fourth poetry collection, Where Water Meets the Rock (39 West Press 2017), contains a poem named an Honorable Mention in Writer’s Digest’s 85th Contest. Her third, CROSSING KANSAS with Jim Morrison, won Kansas Authors Club’s 2017 “Looks Like a Million” Contest, and was a finalist in the QuillsEdge Press 2015-2016 Contest. Her Inside Virgil’s Garage (Chatter House) was a runner-up in the 2015 Nelson Poetry Book Award. McClatchy Newspapers named her Standing on the Edge of the World  (Woodley Press) one of Ten Top Poetry Books of 2008. Her poems have appeared in New LettersI-70 ReviewThorny LocustFlint Hills ReviewSilver Birch Press, Amethyst ArsenicCoal City Review, Phantom Drift, Ekphrastic Review (Egyptian Challenge), The Same, Tittynope ZineBare Root Review, Rockhurst Review, Black Bear Review, 15 anthologies, and other lit zines. Three of her seven novels have been published. Poetry is her way of singing. She taught writing and literature at UMKC for 18 years, MCC-Longview, and teaches Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, and other criminal justice classes for Blue Mountain Community College, Pendleton, Oregon. Visit her on Facebook and on Amazon.

by Jessica Gigot

It is hard to hold a homegrown
            head of broccoli in your hand
and not feel proud.
Seed to start,

seedling to robust stalk and floret,
I cradle this broccoli like my first born.

The infant I protected from damping-off,
            aphids, club root, and pesky flea beetles
                          dotting up all the leaves.

The green gleams and sparkles.
In that one hour on that one day

I made amends with the earth.

Other times, I buy the shipped-in stuff,
            California’s wellspring
Touched by a thousand hands
            and automated sanitation.

Sweat makes this one something special—
            the give and take of it all,
                          my muddied pride.

PHOTO: Broccoli garden. Photo by Marina Helena Muller on Unsplash.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this poem after working in the garden last summer, feeling proud of what I had grown and also overwhelmed by how vast and harmful our food systems has become over the past several decades. Chef Alice Waters wrote, “Finding the beauty in food can change your life,” and I believe that appreciating the poetics of food and the work of growing food will lead us towards farms that are more ecological and in balance with the earth.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jessica Gigot is a poet, farmer, and wellness coach. She lives on a small sheep farm in the Skagit Valley. Her second book of poems, Feeding Hour (Wandering Aengus Press, 2020) won a Nautilus Award and was a finalist for the 2021 Washington State Book Award. Jessica’s writing and reviews appear in several publications, including Orion, Taproot, and Poetry Northwest, and she is currently a poetry editor for The Hopper. Her memoir, A Little Bit of Land, will be published by Oregon State University Press in 2022.

A Guiding Force
by Cristina M.R. Norcross

I will let the outside become the inside,
let the tall grass grow,
a quiet covering at the pond’s edge,
protection for rabbits,
chipmunks, and mice.

I will skip the kitchen bin.
The apple core and carrot shavings
deserve a home amongst the trees,
becoming a dinner menu
for thankful creatures.

I will let clean water flow,
replace bleach with white vinegar
for natural whites in the wash,
for nature’s sake.

I will be mindful of the energy of words,
speaking only colors of compassion,
the soft touch of gentle hands,
using thoughtful tones,
in recognition of what tender ears have heard before,
what they deserve to hear today.

I will let my connection to
every green frond,
every tangerine leaf, every imperfect grain of sand,
every trickling stream,
every earthworm moving the soil
be the guiding force
in how I move through the day,
how I tread lightly on this borrowed earth.
I will breathe deeply.
I will give thanks for every breath.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In writing an offering for this prompt, I wanted to focus on the gift of connection, as a guiding force, when reflecting on how we can each do our part to help heal the earth. What came to mind was fostering a deep connection to nature’s inhabitants, as well as a deep connection to those around us. I wanted to explore how our energy affects the lives of all beings co-existing with us — in the backyard, in the lakes, in the sky, in the house next door.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cristina M. R. Norcross lives in Wisconsin and is the editor of Blue Heron Review. Author of nine poetry collections, her most recent books are The Sound of a Collective Pulse (Kelsay Books, 2021) and Beauty in the Broken Places (Kelsay Books, 2019). Cristina’s work appears in: Visual Verse, Your Daily Poem, Poetry Hall, Silver Birch Press, Verse-Virtual, The Ekphrastic Review, and Pirene’s Fountain, among others. Her work also appears in numerous print anthologies.  Cristina has helped organize community art/poetry projects, has led writing workshops, and has hosted many open mic readings.  She is the co-founder of Random Acts of Poetry & Art Day.  Visit her at and @firkinfiction on Twitter.