Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Ellery Akers: Our Grief for the Earth is Hidden

 
1.  The Diminished World 
 
Most of the time I don’t want to know about it
 
But whatever we can’t understand 
is falling as rain 
into moraines and vernal pools
hissing onto the soaked canopies of alders
with their leaf scars
so the branches are shaking
and the seas are rising
 
When I was born 
I thought I’d be taken from the earth 
I didn’t think the earth would be taken from me
 
2.  Fewer
 
The monarchs
are fewer
 
just one or two today fluttering over the ocean
 
Sometimes I can’t stand to think of the sea 
becoming barren 
the kelp gone   the sculpin
 
just a sheen on the water
 
At least we can’t thin the stars out of the sky 
 
 
 
3.  Journey of an Environmentalist  
 
After I’d locked myself in with my petitions 
and my checkbook and my computer, 
and after I’d given up reading the news,
because reading the news
was like opening a freezer
and smelling stale ice— 
I sat down next to the grass
and fell in love with the earth again: 
I noticed the grass blades 
had hairs that looked the same 
as the hairs on the back of my hand—
blade meet hand, meet blade. 
 
 
 
 
4.  To the Insects Who Are Leaving Us
     
You never seemed to steer. 
You mostly fluttered or wavered 
or sank a little in the air.
Once in while you aimed—
at an intruder, at a hive.
Once in a while you dropped.
Once in a while you drifted onto a page 
I was reading and I blew you gently away. 
Lacewings. Thrips.  
 
Once I saw a lake 
surrounded by banks of forget-me-nots—
they lifted and floated away—damselflies! 
 
Boxelder bugs stuck end to end in spring,
mating and walking along at the same time—
Crickets with ears in their knees—
Dragonflies eating mosquitoes, 
discarding their wings in a glittering pile—
 
If you love insects you can never feel 
alone, said one entomologist.
 
There is Roundup in the air and in the rain. 
Atrazine in the snow. Neonics in the honey.
 
Sometimes I stopped to watch you shine: 
 
With your chitin. With your stingers.
With your pollen. 

Ellery Akers’ latest book is Swerve: Poems on Environmentalism, Feminism, and Resistance (1st World Publishing, 2020).

Copyright 2020 Ellery Akers

Male ebony jewelwing, Calopteryx maculata (Beauvois), resting on a leaf (lateral view). Photograph by Alfred Runkel, Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, University of Florida.

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