Stop and breathe, deeply,
don’t look at the smog,
at the particles hanging
in your air like a curtain.
Don’t pause to consider
what you are inhaling, don’t
picture your alveoli clogged
with what you can now see.
You are drowning slowly in
a sea of air, so imagine yourself
a fish struggling in the water
of a sea you have laid waste to.
We are told that we cannot
live in the past, that would be
a senseless waste of the present.
But we cannot live without
the past for then there would be
no true present in which to live.
So we are left to hover between
the past and its absence,
knowing the present will soon
be the past, there or gone,
caught in the abyss as we
plunge ever forward in the now.
The Rabbi always said that
the highest form of justice
would be to teach a man to fish,
rather than to donate fish to him.
The Rabbi in question is now
long dead, and in so many places
teaching a man to fish will only
enable him to poison his family.
We have laid waste to ouir world
assuming someone will clean it up
for us, and we do throw money
as our attempt at atonement.
So perhaps we should give
out brooms, and hope for the best.
It is there waiting, no doubt
another trap, simple initially seeming pure
but harboring a malevolence that will
soon consume you, leave you broken,
so considering the pen as a weapon,
to lay waste to it, or for seppuku,
both thoughts will no doubt come to mind.
It has always been like this, always will,
different if you chose the digital path,
but only a difference in implement,
the struggle, the loss, the outcome
very much the same, so consistent.
Still you take up pen, stare deeply
at your adversary, swear it will not
defeat you this time, battle on valiantly,
but finally, and yet again, painfully concede
to the omnipotent abyss that today
as yesterday is the pure untouched page.
The sun rose this morning,
as if the day were not in any
way out of the ordinary, day
number far too large to count
for those with finite capacity.
The birds begin, their harmonious
cacophony, though they think
it their lauds, matins of reflection
burned off with the dew under
the gentle glare of a morning sun.
They watch us begin to stir,
imagine how it must be to live
cocooned in oddly symmetrical
boxes, venturing out but retreating
as though the sky was to be feared.
They do not ask how we could
so easily, remorselessly, lay waste
to our shared home, for they
have moved past mourning,
as we remain mired still in denial.
First appeared in The Poet: A New World, Autumn 2020