Summer, 2003

Velene Campbell

Two Poems


This is where the moon cracks its skull
against the dry sand.
This is where shadows spread themselves so thin
that they wander lost against the white land.
This is where there is no water, where the empty wind
pushes sharply through the eyes.
This is where nothing blooms for whole seasons,
where even in winter water gathers in small drops.
This place holds the dry bones of the heart
as if they were small broken flutes. This place
holds the worn bones of the heart, and at night,
like the wind, the white moon moves through them.

And What Great Wall?

---"Of everything I've experienced here, the most demanding, the most courageous challenge has been to stay centered in love in the face of violence and anger, of frustration and fear and sadness."
-----------------------Julia Butterfly Hill

At this turning point
these are the last of the great gorillas
eating green shoots in the forest.
The thick-skinned elephant, endangered, lifts its trunk,
bathes itself on the dusty shore of a dried-up river.

And the white man with the gray-flecked beard
who runs the Black Rhino sanctuary will surely be dead by summer.
He will stay to protect the Rhinos
from poachers starving for food.

In America, too, the earth seems changed as we go about our work.
We remember the Twin Towers, how they collapsed,
firemen carrying people into the falling ash,
those three thousand dead.
Our rivers carry papers and plastics, beer cans
and bottles to the sea, to the gill nets, to the Baggies
stacked up like floating ghosts, with mercury and toxins
hidden in the waves.

Tonight a sharp wind blows in the shadows
where the living sleep, scattered like dead leaves.

There is a solitude in the body,
which is like a solitude of darkness or of light, it is of a sleep
which is like deep water, the homeless dreaming
in alleys, in the rain forests, in the woods
near cut-down trees.

And what great wall can now name the dead?

As logging trucks rattle into our old growth forests,
cut roads into the Congo toward Pygmies' homes,
in a city where Bushmeat is sold to the elite,
a girl dies of AIDS, her small hand
the size of a shriveled plum.

Bombed-out cliffs in Afghanistan,
where cranes nested on their way to India,
no longer exist. Children play next to land mines,
Russian tigers disappear in the coming darkness,
in underground silos missiles wait beneath snow.

In Antarctica, there is a great cracking,
the shuddering of separation, where heaves of ice break apart,
fall heavily into a stark whiteness. The ghostly snow rises up,
and slowly drifts downward again, to cover the frozen terrain,
to settle, finally, into the immensity of its own silence.

The strength of the world lies in love,
and through touch the filaments of the world
are connected, each history, both animals' and mans', born from night,
woven together beneath sky and earth.
And at this, our last great turning point,
as the polar ice thins, and water washes ash
from our streets, what wall will now name the dead,
or return their histories to us,
who will now name the loss of the great red coral reefs,
or bring them back to the sea?