Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Adrie Kusserow: Anthropocene Lullaby

OM GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASAMGATE BODHI SVAHA

Gone, Gone Beyond, Completely Beyond, Gone Beyond Gone

.

Hush humans,

you can finally let it all go,

the Anthropocene, Technocene, Thermocene

Capitalocene, whatever it will be called.

.

Up north, glaciers drip into Inuit trailers,

bed sheets block the overeager sun.

Gangs of bony polar bears 

roam settlements on lockdown.

.

What’s done is done. For once, stop moving.

Let yourself be still as the arctic blue. 

.

Don’t tell me you didn’t get a bit edgy, 

when capitalism tossed its blonde hair cockily aside, 

its profit settling like plastic on the ocean’s floor.

.

Don’t tell me you didn’t squirm, when giant waves of wealth 

rose up, hooded, lashing the beaches, 

then skittering away, leaving tiny husks and exoskeletons of greed,

(tampons for Tweens, Kcups, tooth floss, vape coils, hair clips), 

all of them glistening so beautifully mother seagulls 

drop them like jewels

into their young’s raw squawk. 

.

Surely you knew something was out of balance, 

when you looked up from your taxi,

into the bee hives of Marriotts, Hyatts and Hiltons – 

bulging matriarchs that lodge themselves 

high above the composting slums,  

beneath them the rickshaws picking 

their way through piles of plastic 

like the praying mantis you saw on TV.

.

Surely you wondered how long you could stay

at the top of the food chain

when monkeys took over the markets, 

stealing ripe fruit and warm infants alike.

.

When dusk sheepishly comes to your cities,

gets swallowed by your neon blaze,

when ten billion lights blanket the dark

and the ego feel’s giddy and high,

let go, right there, in that exact spot. 

.

Soon enough a moody storm 

will pluck you off like dog hair

from the black night of her sweater. 

Let yourself float into the galaxy 

where you came from. 

.

Don’t tell me you never once longed for

your own oblivion.

.

I promise it won’t hurt, to let yourself fade.

Oddly enough, nothing you’ve ever experienced

under evolution’s rule, will ever feel this good.

You only have to be ready to crouch, to be humble.

.

I promise, Nothing,

no possible permutation of carbon and hydrogen 

we now call humans, 

will ever be this exhausting 

again.


Copyright 2019 Adrie Kussorow

Sculpture by Lonnie Holley. Memorial at Friendship Church, 2006, metal, found debris, plastic flowers and ribbon.

27 comments on “Adrie Kusserow: Anthropocene Lullaby

  1. Sue Burton
    February 27, 2019

    Powerful. Sings to the bone. Thank you, Adrie K!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dana Walrath (@danawalrath)
    February 25, 2019

    This stunning poem’s haunting imagery and essential truths speak perfectly to this moment in time. It calls all of us to pay attention, to be still, to stop buying, to stop wasting, and lean into the beauty that is this world. As it speaks of degradation of the earth, the poem’s beauty guides us to replacing anger with the beauty and clarity required to bring about the shift in our collective consciousness that will set humans back on a path to sustainability. Heartfelt thanks for putting this onto paper.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Arnold Kozak
    February 25, 2019

    Stunningly disturbing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We all hear that “Thou shall not bear false witness,” and yet, when it comes to facing the so-called “Anthropocene,” bearing false witness is exactly what 99% of humanity seems to more than willing to do. Not so this poem. Here, in a style and tone that reminds me of Robinson Jeffers’s “November Surf,” (oh Jeffers, who, from his stone-built tower overlooking the violent Pacific, also gazed out at the world of human hubris and folly with a similarly lyric steeliness and clarity), Kusserow asks us to consider, finally, if even for a moment, a total acceptance:

    “What’s done is done. For once, stop moving.

    Let yourself be still as the arctic blue.”

    What follows is a brief but altogether immersive incantation of what we’ve known all along– that this whole endeavor of Western civilization has been fatally flawed since long before we all showed up. Here the details of our ow uninspiring detritus shows up as it does in our own local environments: in waves of a minor ugliness that we’ve learned to ignore, despite, or because of, their ubiquity-– which together create the big ugliness. That some of these plastic idols become food to gulls is one of the most powerful, and truthful, images in this or any poem on the matter. I winced and nodded and signed aloud, my own ribs aching like a poisoned gull’s.

    As for the final stanzas, well, I am in their grasp and am looking through them, even if my own temperament tends to keep my rose-colored reading glasses on when I think about the future habitability of this planet. And while I grow uneasy here, Kusserow offers us an almost Mary Oliver-like invitation :

    “You only have to be ready to crouch, to be humble.”

    This poem leaves me wondering just how much more often we should be bearing truthful witness to the fraying threads of our once thriving world, to just stop rushing around praying aloud or partying loud and instead just being still, being humble, and letting something like this earthen, weary wisdom settle into my own bones for a minute or a day.

    So why is this a great poem? Because Kusserow is helping me stay in this truth, and helping me say what I’d often rather not: “What’s done is done.”

    And yet, I also suspect another wisdom hidden further back in this poem somewhere–– that somehow, in contemplating and even hearing the silence of our own “oblivion,” we can return to our senses with a renewed freedom from thinking that any cute, Hollywood resolution to this mess awaits us, because it doesn’t.

    I don’t know what *does* await us, and neither does Kussserow here in this poem. What I do know: I feel more inclined to gaze even more directly, if perhaps more solemnly, at this world’s suffering than I was able to before devouring and digesting this poem. I just can’t say that about many poems, and I can’t say any of these things about many poets.

    “Be still…”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Valerie
    February 24, 2019

    Beautiful, haunting poem. Stays with you for a long, long time after reading. Really powerful.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Katherine Hanson
    February 24, 2019

    The poem sweeps across the troubled and waning era of human inhabitancy of the planet, like breath across a sand mandala.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Karla Van Vliet
    February 21, 2019

    This poem is so beautifully rendered to open the heart and then humble the reader to their knees. Tender, slicing, fierce, so very very lovely. Thank you Adrie Kusserow for your heart and spirit.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Chet Scerra
    February 21, 2019

    “Scientific consensus” is the typical attempt to bring climate change skeptics on board the truth train of global warming’s existence. Trouble is, it has been woefully unsuccessful. A different, and much more convincing approach might be to have skeptics read Kusserow’s Anthropocen Lullaby. As usual, Kusserow’s words are penetrating…deeply. In this case they just might penetrate the cracks of the deniers’ tribal recalcitrance. Words that are both powerful and lachrymose.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Jonathan Harris
    February 21, 2019

    Adrie has found a way of cutting through the noise of our modern civilization to arrive at a serene truth. Inspirational.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Greg Delanty
    February 21, 2019

    A tragic, beautiful lullaby.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Chuck
    February 21, 2019

    Adrie’s poem addresses us, warns us, and consoles us. It’s a beautiful heart breaking wave. Thanks Adrie.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Ann Meigs Dickerson
    February 21, 2019

    Powerful.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Ann Meigs Dickerson
    February 21, 2019

    Powerful poem.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. KAB
    February 21, 2019

    Adrie Kusserow has the artistic power to make something that is so real, but that feels so abstract, touch our souls.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Robert
    February 20, 2019

    powerful, powerful, powerful, you’re the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. ljd1
    February 20, 2019

    it’s hard to write an effective political poem without being didactic, but kusserow has succeeded brilliantly–the poem is brutal, beautiful, and necessary.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Moira Hutchins-Fuhr
    February 20, 2019

    Breathtaking.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Renato Rosaldo
    February 20, 2019

    Remarkable vision of today’s nightmare, not locked in the past, not what is to come. In an unassuming way Kusserow has the courage to look at things as they are, to see the horror as it is. Climate change has, for me, never been as vivid and specific, has never come home as fully, in image upon image, as it does in Kusserow’s verse. So painterly, remind of Hieronymus Bosch and Peter Bruegel the Elder. Thank you,
    Adrie.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. kate baldwin
    February 20, 2019

    like a raw nerve, this poem offers sensory overload carved carefully into language

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Gay Giordano
    February 20, 2019

    Graceful terror. Adrie always seems to find that fold in the fabric that hides all the crumbs others have missed. Gorgeous!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Tara
    February 20, 2019

    What Can I say? Adrie’s poetry is ALIVE, RAW and REAL. For someone like myself, with no grasp of such other worldly words, Adrie’s poetry gives life to what I feel in my bones and the cells of my body. She lets me experience feelings that I have, but can never, in my life, ever speak. What artistry, what beauty, what a way to write about the havoc that humanity has created, and YET, there is no bitterness. How does she do that?

    Thank you for this gift Adrie.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Amy Seybolt
    February 20, 2019

    Wonderful!!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Hilary Bond
    February 20, 2019

    Echoes of Koyaanisqatsi and “The Second Coming”- so brutal and vivid! Thank you for sharing, Adrie.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Joan Wry
    February 20, 2019

    I have long been impressed with Adrie Kusserow’s beautifully wrought poems; her powerful images have a way of lodging themselves in your brain–even as you find yourself savoring the sonorous lyricism of each well-crafted line. “Anthropocene Lullaby” is the kind of poem that should be read aloud–pondered deeply–shared with people you care about. “Let yourself be still as the arctic blue,” Kusserow urges in her poem, and contemplate the graphic scene that has already unfolded around you: dripping glaciers, bony polar bears, serpent-like “waves of wealth” that rise up “hooded, lashing,” only to recede leaving “tiny husks and exoskeletons of greed” that paradoxically “glisten . . . like jewels” in testimony to the anthropocene center that cannot hold. Kusserow’s sonorous lullaby piles up those images of staggering waste that we’ve unleashed like anarchy upon our world, but surely, she reminds us, we’ve seen this coming. And of course, this is the truth of Kusserow’s message: Edgy, squirm[ing], anxiously “out of balance,” we are nonetheless powerless “under evolution’s rule.”
    “Be ready . . . be humble,” we are told.
    More than any other lyric prophecy I know of, “Anthropocene Lullaby” urges exactly the kind of humility that not deserves our intensive contemplation, but may finally be the message that helps us, finally, to walk in the truth of who we are.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. lizard powell
    February 20, 2019

    This beautiful poem radiates pure language that rises, that brings the reader to a place in poetic nirvana. Kusserow is one of my very favorite poets. I love how she intertwines the spiritual, the natural, the earthly. Kusserow’s work is stunning! Thank you for this poem!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. criticalkashmirstudies
    February 20, 2019

    A voice brilliantly delivering the message we should all be listening to. Goosebumps all the way —

    “I promise, Nothing,

    no possible permutation of carbon and hydrogen

    we now call humans,

    will ever be this exhausting

    again.”

    Feeling this. Thank you for speaking out.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Gwen Bergner
    February 20, 2019

    An amazing poem that makes vivid and livid and languid the urgent nothingness of real life with climate change. I am so sick of the hopeless, hopeful despair of reading about it. And yet this poem makes everything alive again so that we can see anew the dying and the beautiful. Brilliant.

    Liked by 1 person

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