Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Book of Joshua

1. The Laurentian Shield

On the slope to Hudson Bay, one white bear
Out of the north. Then, many more. In Churchill,
They show a taste for rotting garbage
And a talent for out-flanking our efforts.
This bear's blank eyes and unthinking need asserts
A hunger like the rock below us, as if the rage
Of the slow-changing earth had grown a will.
To abide, all hungers must be fed with care.

2. Spies

Our lives for your life, the men assured her.
Assured her like the first tendril of a gourd
Reaching from soil into space. What's up here?
It asks. Empty air, and for awhile, the sun.
It can recoil in doubt or it can be the one
Which lives in light, light which is fear
Turned inside out. Meanwhile its roots have bored
Into the soil looking for what? Asking is error.

"Our life for yours,
if ye utter not this our business. " Joshua 2:14

3.Iowa Floods

Hundred year floods every five years. Water cannot rise
Above the horizon. And yet … I met a man in a boat
Which held his son, a shotgun, and his wife's china.
He'd seen the water top the levee and knew the score.
Below us an old state road waited for the roar
Of 18 wheelers to return. And they will: like dino-
Saurs in a theme park. Each new flood a note
In a crescendo: how deaf can we be and still be wise?

4.What Happened Here?

Here the rock holds tiny plants, vascular
but broken. Lichens abound, and scrub pine
Rebound from the scourings of glaciers, over and over,
Like hammers or rain. Can you look and see
What happened here? Construct the tenuous history
Of rock that floats or burns but now is a cover
For Time itself? Can we see within this plane a spine
The way we see within the clock a star?

The Laurentian Shield is the home of the oldest
rocks on the planet. Reading its history is a dizzying act of intelligence.

5. Drill, Baby, Drill

Oil is found only where the rocks allow:
So thick, so porous, with so much pressure.
And so old. Our hunger knows no such bounds.
The Earth is pinned like a fetish doll
With drills and linked to every pin an obeh call
And at the end of every prick are gaping wounds.
At some point, nothing will reassure
Us, and the dolls will all be hollow.

6. Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho

Like Son of Sam or Mein Kampf, the need
For a home meant that crazy words were honored:
Men, women, childen, donkeys. All killed.
But God wanted their treasure for His own.
Never rebuild Jericho, He said. A septic town.
Or evidence. And yet they wrote what He willed
And Jericho became a song and the song interred
A crime -- don't touch the gold -- and Yahweh's greed.

7. The Pity of It All

Elon's book was a still life more than history:
Of globed peonies and roses in isolation
On a table. A formal, Renaissance study.
On the cloth a curled leaf and in the rose
A ladybug. A highlit cup of wine shows
The house is noble. Somewhere, there are ruddy
Children playing with hounds. Somewhere a nation
Is at war. Somewhere else is God's glory.
Amos Elon. Informal "official" historian of Israel.
His most famous book is The Pity of It All: A Portrait of the German-Jewish Epoch 

8. The Wallow & Monument Fires

The winds changed and the Old Ones went away.
Now, the fires have claimed vacation places
And historical sites: the thousand year flame
Flakes the paint right off the pueblo walls.
On CNN, smoke clouds compete with stock quote crawls
And the news that immigrants bear the blame.
But fire can both make and erase traces,
and immigrants have always meant to stay.

10. Hail No

The pine bark beetle keeps finding more to chew,
And when spring's early, it moves to the next stand.
An overlooked thing has all the time it needs
And figures greatly in Intelligent Design.

The sweat from killing kings made Joshua's face shine,
And as more kings stood against him, his mighty deeds
Multiplied. And hail killed more than sword and hand.
If you can't go to hail, then hail will come to you.
They were more which died with hailstones
than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword.
Joshua 10:11

11. Clathrates

As the muck at continental margins warms,
It expands. For eons, rivers have washed our trash
And leaf piles and dog poo out to sea where it sinks --
A home for land's waste which is then locked in ice.
Eventually, the bill comes, and cages of vague device
Unlock at once. Then the stunned globe stinks,
And our big booming enterprise succumbs with a crash.
Or not. The lure of "maybe not" is one of Life's charms.

When organic material rots, it emits methane gas. A clathrate is
a little 'cage' of under-sea methane trapped in ice crystal.
Clathrates gather at continental margins where the ice is kept from melting
by the pressure of the gunk on top of it. When the sea warms,
the internal pressure of the expanding methane in the clathrate
can get strong enough to emerge into the atmosphere above the ocean
like a huge belch or fart which, at sufficient concentrations,asphyixiates
the life at continental margins.

Don't laugh. It has happened many times in our geological past.
There are currently trillions of tons of clathrates. Many times
the amount of greenhouse gases currently in the atmosphere.
And there is a growing fizz of methane, bubbling up in unlikely places. Like the Arctic.

15. Down with the Flood

Today, the town of Minot washed away.
From a dead flat start to top a weather vane,
The water rose like the first hint of a new disease,
Like a blanket from a country known for pain.
If late winter snows always wait on spring’s first rain,
Floods like this will soon be as common as fleas.
When it ebbs, there's a rat lodged in a downspout drain
and God's promised rainbow fades to pink and gray.


  1. This is wonderful. I love your poetry. Thank you!!! ( I stumbled upon your blog at a site about global warming...) So glad I did. I want to read more!

  2. Thanks for the kind words. Yes, global warming is "the plot" of many of these.

  3. re: the menace of clathrates. The vast bulk of the evidence I've read since I wrote this poem STRONGLY suggests that we've been jumping at our own shadow over this. It takes an enormous energy change to unlock clathrates at an explosive rate. And there's really no strong evidence that methane would dramatically increase the impact of greenhouse gases if it did. There's a lot of methane out there, but it will NOT just pop out like a fart.