It’s Global Climate Strike Day. It’s beautiful here. Mother Earth is offering her support for the day, the early morning light touched with gold.
Yesterday I walked in twilight through the forest duff of Old Mill Park to the Mill Valley library which looks out from full length windows onto redwood trees.
That might be enough for an evening but I was there to hear two poets read.
First, Matthew Siegel read, and then, Padraig O Tuama, an Irish poet, who headed Corrymeela for years.
Unfamiliar with it, I checked out their website: https://www.corrymeela.org
Corrymeela is Northern Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation organisation. We began before “The Troubles” and continue on in Northern Ireland’s changing post–conflict society. The organisation grew organically from the original Community members, and today almost 40 full–time staff and dozens of volunteers work alongside the eleven thousand people who spend time in our residential centre every year.
Following the reading, there was a question and answer period.
Both men agreed that Ilya Kaminski is the poet of a century. If you haven’t read his poetry, do.
They spoke of knowing and exploring the one thing, that one thing that each of us comes back to when we write to explore, discover, and share.
Padraid said, Poems have a certain hunger around which they circle.
He also said spirituality comes from the breath, that language helps us breathe, so write what people can turn to, do things with words that help us breathe, then finalize a poem with a spark or a demand. I sit with that, no small task, though perhaps trusting the breath, it is.
Naturally politics had to come up when an Irish poet is in the room. Right, now the world is twisted on arrogance. As you might imagine, he didn’t have anything good to say about Britain, the Tories, or Brexit. He called the explorer Captain James Cook, a murderer. He says Ireland didn’t have a potato famine; they had a policy famine.
They were asked if cell phones are destroying writing. They pointed out that texting is writing. We send emails. We are writing, and writing is about attention, and that is the point, attention.
They both agreed they are inspired by this poem by Rilke, and by Emily Dickinson, of course.
Rainer Maria Rilke
I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.
I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?
Book of Hours, I 2
That leads me to Jane Hirshfield’s poem, the perfect poem for this day.
May our lungs breathe in the clean air of fact.
ON THE FIFTH DAY
by Jane Hirshfield
On the fifth day
the scientists who studied the rivers
were forbidden to speak
or to study the rivers.
The scientists who studied the air
were told not to speak of the air,
and the ones who worked for the farmers
and the ones who worked for the bees.
Someone, from deep in the Badlands,
began posting facts.
The facts were told not to speak
and were taken away.
The facts, surprised to be taken, were silent.
Now it was only the rivers
that spoke of the rivers,
and only the wind that spoke of its bees,
while the unpausing factual buds of the fruit trees
continued to move toward their fruit.
The silence spoke loudly of silence,
and the rivers kept speaking,
of rivers, of boulders and air.
In gravity, earless and tongueless,
the untested rivers kept speaking.
Bus drivers, shelf stockers,
code writers, machinists, accountants,
lab techs, cellists kept speaking.
They spoke, the fifth day,