Offspring: a poem, a lament

Speaking of offspring, here’s a lament written during the summer writing retreat.* I can’t remember what the prompt was — maybe something about emptying your mind?

Golden rod tug slightly in a breeze. Higher up, the rustle of maples. And everywhere: insects. Bees and flies and stinging pests. How sweet it’d be to merely lament the season coming to a close and not the earth herself melting, collapsing, churning, with the Ring of Fire activating quakes up and down the coasts on either side of the Pacific. Which one will open up under Brentwood, Pasadena, Korea Town, and Studio City and gobble up great edifices of society not to mention, people: Brother, Son? I could never have been the mother who said, ‘No. Do not go.’ And even if I had been, he’d not have listened which is how it should be, but still — a bigger worry added to the usual worries.

And then there’s the plains of Nebraska, the river banks along the Mississippi, the lower reaches of Missouri — should so much land be under water?

And how can the potential destruction of, say, one American Western city compare to all of Greenland’s ice melting, Paris and London frying under a merciless sun? Or colony collapse, the bees giving up the ghost, along with whole caveloads of bats, unable to fight the poisonous fight any longer, tongues and nails, slab and tourniquet. What place, then after?

When we look at the data, we also look away, preferring to note how a grasshopper landing not five feet away says something about summer ending and the memory of other summers ending — times when bikes, hoses, pools, bare feet were the signifiers. Our poor brood when little watched nature show after nature show offering up news of habitat decline and species extinction and people wonder why millennials are anxious?

We wonder why the young refuse heirlooms of any kind, but especially have no interest in the Rosenthal china, the Royal Doulton, the Strawberry Wedgewood. ‘Will we have a home or air?’ they wonder — the inability to afford the former a trifling but inescapable concern compared to the latter.

‘We have ten years,’ they keep saying, trying and failing to sound the alarm. ‘Ten years’ means something different to the young than it does to my aging ears. Gone are the days when insects present as cute and annoying pests. Not when closer scrutiny might reveal how numbered their days are. How connected they are to everything else.

Even if we all rowed in the same direction, what a monumental challenge! But with lies the prevalent currency and corporations granted all ascendancy, we first have to clean house and by then — I’m sorry, the thought is there — mightn’t it be too late?

How many monarchs migrated to the milkweeds, those perennials standing proud and erect, proper in their heliotropic course, casting lozenge-shaped shadows, offering praise to sun and nourishment to caterpillars? How many? Less than last year? A tenth of the year before?

It’s easy to shrug at the extinction of some two-toed sloth or a miniature lizard with nocturnal habits literally never seeing the light of day, but what about ALL of the passerines? Polar bears and reindeer? What about us? If we’d cared more about the two-toed sloth all those years ago, would we be better situated today — able to enter the “Wild Kingdom” programming, sponsored by Mutual of Omaha and hosted by some hokey and corny know-nothing, instead of learning about floating islands of plastic the size of Delaware and about Colorado burning for half a season?


* It turns out that the response to the prompt mentioned yesterday became a chapter in the book (working title: •Blood and Indigo•). That means I’m precluded from ‘publishing’ here (seriously, with 100 hits a day?) What would happen if I ‘published’ it, left it up for ten days, and then tagged it private? SShhh

Sharon Olds poem, published in Atlantic Magazine.

19 thoughts on “Offspring: a poem, a lament

      1. snicklefritzin43

        Dee, I read your blog every time you post, yet I don’t always have a space in my journey to write, today was a writing morning. I love your blog words and photos.

  1. Ginny

    It is such a worry, all of this. A tidal wave of worry. The only thing that gave me solace was that NYer article on an archeologist finding remnants of the big asteroid hit that wiped out the dinosaurs and shut the door on the Cretaceous age, and uahered us in. (Humans, wait for the next asteroid!? No way! We’ll take us out, ourselves). But the article gave me hope because the earth survived. Scraped off the dirty plate of Dinos and started over. She will do it again, without us. I think that might be a very good thing. Who knows. Maybe the plankton that survives will breath in a little human dna and work out a better example of reincarnated humans.

    I love the poem. It captures the angst du jour perfectly.

  2. Michelle Slater

    “tidal wave of worry” Yes, and I used to fear the bomb too, now I fear us. That’s when I look up at the stars like the Sensei at my Zendo and just by knowing there are infinite galaxies, I’m eased by awe..

    The writing is wonderful.

  3. ravenandsparrow

    I like Michelle’s line “eased by awe”….that’s what allows me to wade through the morass of fear.

  4. Tina

    “Eased by awe” thanks Michelle yes last night seeing that BeautyFull full moon and its reflection off Lake Michigan not to mention an owls hooting coming from the nearby trees. Such a wonderful post .. so many words to ponder. I’m on my way to the Farmer’s Market followed by lunch with my daughter and grandkids .. it’s going to be a very good day. Have a good weekend everyone.

    1. deemallon

      What a lovely image and reporting of sounds from last night. You inspire me to get out to Newton’s farmers market! Have a nice weekend with family. I will be editing a lot and stretching and not gardening (because of my back).

  5. Saskia

    your writing is amazing! I look forward to your book, having page after page to gobble up and enjoy….’though the subject matter is a lot to digest
    I was in the woods today, they’re chopping down all the ash tress as they’re all infected with ‘ash-branch-death’ disease, it saddened me a great deal; this fragile planet we walk upon is weighed down by our heavy feet….I feel sorry for our children

    1. deemallon

      Yes. The ash trees. The chestnut, elm, and hemlock. It future generations that saddens me too. And not some abstract distant lineage, but our children. Now and in ten years.

  6. Michelle Slater

    First-great writing chops on you. As for the all of what sucks, I could be sad, but I’d rather be cool and clever, candidly pissed like “celebrated author, humourist and contrarian Fran Lebowitz, beloved for her sardonic brand of cultural commentary, brought her bracing wit to Sydney Opera House’s All About Women Festival for an evening of candid conversation about cultural nostalgia.”


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