The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.
Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made
is star-stuff too?
– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –
dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.
Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.
Saturday, 31 December 2016
An hour later, there was a cacophony in the garden as maybe 30 hounds poured through it. Given their size, I believe they must have been harriers – in other words taking part in the (of course also illegal) persecution of the tiny colony of hare we are lucky enough as to shelter here still.
Hounds may not know the difference between hare and foxes; the instinct is to chase, and considering they were very interested in the area at said hedge where I know foxes come and help themselves to spilled birdseed, when they gave tongue and set off again up our field I assumed they were after the fox. (We have various fox earths in our field, along with some possibly-now-empty badger setts due to the wrong-minded and terrible badger culls happening here – 11,000 badgers killed this year.)
Whether fox or hare, I was devastated. Have we STILL, as a species, not grown out of our barbarism? In this case in the name of sport? Aren't there more productive ways of having a good time outdoors?
It being the time of year when one makes resolutions, it seems to be a good time to speak of reducing suffering in the world in ways over which we have some control: what we choose to consume or support.
I'm not going to lecture you on going vegan, but I thought I'd give you a gentle nudge in the direction of remembering how we as a species impose such suffering on others of our own species and especially of other species.
This time last year I created a website (see below) about taking a step towards veganism, whatever that means for you: giving up red meat, giving up dairy, sourcing alternatives to leather, whatever it might be. maybe it means being more vocal in protests on the badger cull in England, on fox-hunting, bullfighting, animal testing (eg see http://www.peta.org/features/what-peta-really-stands-for/).
I called it '57 billion' as that was, I thought, the number of land animals eaten each year by humans, globally. Turns out it's more like 64 billion, with over 1 trillion aquatic species.
The current guest blog is from my friend David Ashton.
And from David's blog, here are some words: 'Speciesism, like cannibalism, slavery, religious persecution, racism and sexism, is the imposing of the will of a powerful group upon a weaker group – in this case, by humans upon other sentient species. We take it so much for granted that it often goes unnoticed. But it’s everywhere – not just on our dinner plates and covering our feet, but also at the rodeos, circuses, bullfights, hunting and fishing trips, the fur trade and clothing stores. Last but not least, the worst atrocities are hidden behind the walls of the factory farms and slaughterhouses.'
Please join us in supporting the cause of animal rights. www.57billion.org
I would love your contributions of experiences, struggles, successes with cutting down on animal products, soapbox, recipes, nutritional tips, anything at all related to reducing the suffering of animals at our hands.
I should perhaps also mention that a major focus of my work, both writing and courses, is re-visioning our relationship to the rest of the natural world through hands-on experience of reconnection outdoors: www.thewildways.co.uk
Friday, 30 December 2016
Song For A Slender-billed Curlew
You’re not the first ghost to walk
in the full glare of the noonday sun.
You won’t be the last. At best,
only ever a bird that belonged
to another world, the one
to which our imagination
aspires. So, an artist
in Andalucia draws
that intruded upon
his afternoon, but was gone
when the cameras clicked.
In Crimea, the pools and runnels
of a trackless taiga, whose own
existence can only be supposed,
babble down through cloud.
From Druridge Bay
to the Hortobagy, birdwatchers
make of the familiar
whatever they will,
and the slim beak
of each new moon
passes without word,
for good or ill.
© Matt Merritt
Thursday, 29 December 2016
The website for the anthology is at http://rhinoanthology.wordpress.com Please visit; please spread the word. See, too, the video Harry has made.
I was both shocked and moved by this poem, below, and by Harry's words on the website in relation to the context. (They sit beneath the photo of a female rhino minus her horn.)
Harry says: 'This is Thandi, the heroic rhino to whom For Rhino in a Shrinking World is dedicated. Her horn was, of course, hacked from her face by poachers.
'Since then, I have had both the honour and the despair of watching a rhino darted and de-horned in order to make it less attractive to poachers. Here is my response to that experience.'
I have always hated that sound: it means
death for something, it means devastation,
the hollow shriek of human intrusion.
Now here he is, crumpled on his haunches,
a white rhino bull, too strong, too proud, too
much himself, despite the darts, to go down.
But he’s drugged, masked, pinned: this to save his world.
And clearly he has been through the nightmare
before, though his stunted horn has re-grown.
Now the indignity repeats itself.
Our work’s against the clock, the sedative,
the history; his life depends on us.
So, plenty of cool water – and a chainsaw.
The helicopter’s pilot lounges, smoking,
in his cab as blizzards of horn shavings
surge from the blade like flakes of pale soap,
like the weeping wings of termites or ants,
like butterflies consecrating the grass
beneath the sun’s fire and the chainsaw’s hell.
This is what we’re reduced to: presiding
over the face of our world, cosmetic
surgery or death, improving nothing.
© Harry Owen
Friday, 23 December 2016
Today's poem steps out of the waters of the expected, with a sideways look at a species long gone. Thank you, Lindsay.
Association of Women Clerks and Secretaries (AWCS)
Note: a garefowl is a great auk. The last great auk was killed in 1844. The very sad story of its demise is on the Smithsonian webpage: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/with-crush-fisherman-boot-the-last-great-auks-died-180951982/
Tuesday, 20 December 2016
So here's to the returning light; and a glass to midwinter's turning, and to friendship – one of the things that might pull us through these dark times. Thank you all who accompany me on this journey.
First you need to shed all you know
or can name
then you need to step out of
your shoes, your shadow, your own
light, and your home. Strip
naked as the four winds
and forget being upright
unless you want to dance, and then
dance the stone row to the stone circle
and allow the sky to take your voice.
This is the season of yew and periwinkle
of Persephone's descent
to the winter god.
Watch for the barn owl
and Hecate at the crossroads
and prepare to hang from the World Tree
until you are sobered by silence
and stillness, and the great
white unending song of the spheres.
Kneel on the earth until
you become a reed, a snail, a fox,
another word for truth.
Be the berry in the dark stream
that the water bears away.
Transformed into all
you may be, step forward and cross
the threshold, gateway to gods
and ancestors, to what will endure
beyond all that you can imagine
of the play of particle, of wave –
take the hand that's offered, step through
this gateway to the light that burns within
which now you’ll never lose again.
© Roselle Angwin
Monday, 19 December 2016
This beautiful poem captures something of the hare's magic and its supposed madness and dancing.
I am blue sky-dome is the cup of my eye,
vast, limpid, rain-drop clear.
As lightning sight strikes through my nerve to muscle.
My coat is shaking grass and herbs of six fields I am.
Your steps shift in the shimmering of me,
like spring moving in the trees.
I am lode of clover in the low air, buttercup’s bittersweet my nose.
Air carries you to me, you linger everywhere,
push through the hay and ragwort, your rank peculiar: worst.
For my ears leaves of chestnut, green or rust, rustle in me,
opening to the sky clock, tracking everything.
Wind my language, you speak it in me as you talk.
I am cow parsley in spring is the long note on my tongue.
You season land with the man-shit you alone make,
miss the taste of dew fall, of stars passing.
Dog my fear, my laughing dread, bursts like well-water in my throat,
speed my joy, fleet as flood my feet
in the frantic course; I am flight from shot and teeth.
Moon my muse, sails through me in her silvers
trailing wraps of cloud. The stars my motley coat.
I dance to thrill heaven, I to beat the bounds of my earthen feet.
© Simon Stanley
Saturday, 17 December 2016
Lesley says: 'The poem... was written in response to an article in the 'Yorkshire Post' about recent proposals to expand and develop Leeds/Bradford airport to cater for their desired passenger throughput from 3 million p.a. to 5.1 Since the airport is built on top of a moor, surrounded by agricultural land and greenbelt, small farming communities and towns, the continuing desecration of flora, fauna and human habitats continues unabated despite the environmental cost.'
Thursday, 15 December 2016
the sea threw up
a yellowish-grey lump
that clung to bone,
its unrough side
fluted like a
fragment of old stone
enough to say
enough to see it
soar, glide, then flap
joyfully snap up
© Mark Totterdell
from This Patter of Traces (Oversteps 2014) http://marktotterdell.moonfruit.com
Wednesday, 14 December 2016
I requested this poem, as my range in this month's blogposts is not only the extinct or going-extinct species but also those we persecute. Thank you, Andie.
And god said let there be fox cub
The colour of warm, dry sand.
Let him have a beard of white swansdown
And in his mouth the knowledge of milk trust.
Let his nose go into the truth of things.
May it find me in the nest of a green meadow
Under golden tongues of dandelion in full flowering,
The sweet and the stink of them.
May he be satisfied with fowl flesh
Warm in his mouth, the living blood of it
A taste of my substance alive and running in him.
May he grow in cunning,
Keen as the hunger in his belly.
It is my hunger.
May he be satisfied with good things.
Let him run like an arrow from the red hunter
And when the hour comes, if it must come,
That he is torn from himself,
His heart thrown to the dogs,
Let him hear close by, and closer still,
The sound of his name sung from the breast,
And the last word be mine: beloved.
© Andie Lewenstein
If you've a poem for lost, endangered or persecuted species that you'd be happy to send for my consideration to share on this blog, please do contact me.
Monday, 12 December 2016
Thank you Victoria for contributing this fine piece.
Litany for the Animals
For anteaters and ants, Abdulali's Wrinkled Frog and Abe's Salamander
For rabbits, their reproductive vigour, their fluffy tails and soft noses
Saturday, 10 December 2016
Remember the nameless ones
Who survived the kiss of glacier
The years of lean and those of plenty
Whose genes slipped through pogroms
Who turned right instead of left
Whose soft, quick tongues made jokes of fate
Whose fingers shaped scraps into latkes
Who clung to their traditions, their songlines
Their medicine plants, their kinship
With Grandmother Earth, Grandfather Sky.
Blessed are the vanished ones
Whose habitat became expendable
Whose lives were extinguished by indifference
Whose pelts, horn and other body parts
Were worth more to those
Whose backs, walls and libidos they adorn
Those creeping, flying, swimming, leaping ones
Whose raucous calls, gauzy wings,
Webbed toes and gaudy hues
Will not be heard or seen again.
Give thanks to the myriad scavengers
Who scuttle and hover; who devour matter
Whose unseen industry tidies away death
Who rag-pick life from a mountain of leavings
Whose ingenuity fashions answers from decay
Whose webs and threads spin shrouds
Blessed are the wanderers who leave no trace
Who huddle under flyovers, in rotten wood
Who eat from skips and tips and gutters
Who sup from the kindness of strangers
Who sleep nightly under the infinite.
© Rachael Clyne
Thursday, 8 December 2016
So it's the end of another year when I've had the privilege of working deeply with many of you on my course and retreat programmes, once again. Thank you for what you bring of your stories, your poems, your explorations, your doubts, fears, laughter, sorrows and joys. A rich life makes space for them all, and there's community in the sharing.
Winter Solstice poem
Perhaps you, like me, question the point of writing and creativity when the world is going through such seemingly endless troubles – massacres in the Middle East, Trump, Brexit, lost and disappearing species, accelerating climate change, the rise of the far right, stories of hate crimes, abuse, homelessness, despair? Writing can seem indulgent at best.
... the darkness around us is deep.' (William Stafford)
And on that note, if you need more inspiration, creativity, fellowship of the kind I've spoken of, a boost for your inner and imaginal life, then my 2017 programme (beginning with my annual THRESHOLDS course for something like the 20th year, on Sunday 15th January in Totnes, Devon) is now available on my websites: Fire in the Head and The Wild Ways
Tuesday, 6 December 2016
I've a few now; they'll appear during this month.
Kathleen Jones was the first respondent. Here's her poignant poem, written especially:
Three Species an Hour
Already, as I write this, another one is gone –
a yellow tree-frog, in the deep throat
of an Amazonian orchid, the small corpse,
the size of my finger-nail, perhaps,
floating on a micro-lake of sweet rain.
And then, while I make coffee,
a coral polyp on a shallow Pacific reef,
silently sheds it algae. An unknown
species, dying unrecorded in a warming sea.
Now, it is only a matter of watching
the clock, counting down how long
it takes, in universal time, to get from
an unspectacular beetle, now thrashing
its legs for the last time, unobserved, on
the forest floor, to us; the apex of a pyramid
that rests on biological foundation blocks
we are removing, one by one by one.
© Kathleen Jones
Monday, 5 December 2016
... 'space is an extension of your body'... and truer perhaps our bodies are an extension of space ...
... there is only the dance. this morning when i retrieved the birdfeeders washed them hung them away from rat cat squirrel the gang waited in the willow tree and took all of three seconds to raid the feeders. then robin followed dog and I back into the house... this dance ... in the heart of the flames so many ways to find joy.
... there is the dance of heart to heart. there is the dance of breath to breath. there is the dance of body to body.
... there is the dance we call love ...
... and my friend yesterday telling me he'd given all of himself to her, and she'd spurned it. i gave her my soul, he said
and i drew breath. – giving away your soul? – pocketful of mumbles, such are promises ... do you think it's loving to give away your soul? what if such a 'gift' is not a gift but a burden ... make yourself free if you want to love her, i say. reclaim your life, invite back your soul, and see her. really see her. be free to love her because you love yourself too ...
... if we cannot love our self we cannot love another ...
... so that is a dance.
here now i claim my own axis again, throw off the weighty coat of the world, look to seagull in the grey sky, in this moment, this dance that is all there is ...
Saturday, 3 December 2016
For you today, three things from each of two wise women:
'...To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.'
Mary Oliver, from 'In Blackwater Woods'
‘Three things differentiate living from the soul versus living from the ego only. They are: the ability to sense and learn new ways, the tenacity to ride a rough road, and the patience to learn deep love over time… it is not from the everchanging ego that we love one another, but rather from the wild soul… It takes a heart that is willing to die and be born and die and be born again and again.’
Clarissa Pinkola Estes from Women Who Run with the Wolves
And because it glances at death, and also has just appeared in this month's Green Spirit magazine, I'm going to include here too an excerpt from one of my poems, The Perfect Tense (from Looking For Icarus).
- ► 2017 (47)
- a bit more for animals
- Lost Species poem 10: Matt Merritt
- Lost Species poem 9: Harry Owen
- Lost Species poem 8: Lindsay MacGregor
- winter solstice poem
- Lost Species poem 7: Simon Stanley
- Lost Species poem 6: Lesley Quayle
- Lost Species poem 5: Mark Totterdell
- Lost Species poem 4: Andie Lewenstein
- Lost Species poem 3: Victoria Field
- Lost species poem 2: Rachael Clyne
- Fire in the Head & The Wild Ways 2017
- Lost Species poem 1: Kathleen Jones
- there is only
- 3 things
- ▼ December (15)
- ► 2015 (78)
- ► 2014 (123)
- ► 2013 (157)
- ► 2012 (199)
- ► 2011 (284)