Recorded at the annual Black Earth Institute gathering: Art and Literature Lab, Madison; Oct 7th, 2017
Unable to sleep, the blankets wrapped in waves, waves as tall as dreams, the dream world trying to make sense of the waking— strange dream of flooded rivers, entire cities underwater. Look how the dead float, hair blossoming on the surface, and the daily hustle into streets filled with water, going to get bread, going to get gasoline, and the dogs tied to lampposts, and the elders, in chest high water, waiting for rescue. And always the water rising, and we never know who it will take next—except that some houses are more sturdy than others, and some rescues come quicker, or do not come at all. Remember when our beds were filled with oil—the sea was whispering from an open door as that viscous dark came spilling up and out and into every crevice of our dreams how many days it gushed, all over our newspapers, into our laundry and hair, how it covered our hands and it wouldn’t wash out? We couldn’t sleep at night. And the President ate shrimp and said none of this, though tragic, should interrupt our dinner. We who crawled once to these shores, having risen single celled from the ocean floor, now standing in the midst of an invented world. Each morning, we step into our clothes, light the stove for breakfast, and those of us with privilege, we gas up and go. We who once had no claws, no hands, no way of grasping what we desired. And the waters keep seeping back in. Look how carefully zookeepers pack up those dolphins, airlifting them to safety giving them massages to ease the stress. After the flooding the houses so weak they are crumbling, and before the flooding also. Elsewhere drought brings flame. Fires consuming the west coast of our country. Easy breathing only when the wind is blowing the other direction firefighters fighting to protect the houses as animals come screaming from the flames. Give them water, foresters beg, let them recover. A friend wants to know how to teach a writing workshop about trees, when all the trees are burning, smoke so thick they cannot be outdoors. Another hides in his closet, trying to read Rumi as the hurricane approaches. Still another has tattooed “resist” on her arm. Give me a dog who isn’t drowning, a tree not in flames. A flag that is not betrayal. Let me help build an ark big enough for everyone who needs rescue.
first published at The Quarry at Split This Rock: http://www.splitthisrock.org/poetry-database/poem/requiem