Monday, April 23, 2018

Can farming help poetry save America? #phenology

Spring has returned, again. Some snow is left along the Southern and Eastern edges of fields, but about 90% of it has melted, as has the ice cover on local streams and smaller ponds. Canada geese are building nests. We saw several egrets along the marshes edge. Grass in the roadside ditches is starting to green. Male goldfinches have turned chrome yellow in anticipation of breeding season. And, a neighbor down the road a piece has his yaks back for Summer pasture.

the yaks are back!
the yaks are back!
Photo by J. Harrington

When we looked, there was no sign of pasque flowers where a few had bloomed last year. Too early? Too late? Claimed by the major snow storm a week or so ago? In the next few days we'll wander back and see how far the skunk cabbage has progressed. Meanwhile, the bluebird houses are ready for occupants, although none have been seen yet. This time last year they had been here for three weeks already. The swallow/martin house has been cleaned out. Let the nesting begin!

how do we combine this with traditional farming to make a more livable world?
how do we combine this with traditional farming to make a more livable world?
Photo by J. Harrington

We had an interesting series of Tweets this morning with others involved in local foods and non-industrial scale farming. Although there remain many points of disagreement, we seemed to be in accord on some major themes. One of the concerns we took from that exchange is how challenging it is to determine if one is dealing with facts or fiction. Is organic dairy better for the milk drinker or the environmental commons? Where can one find relatively unbiased studies on which to make a decision? If we want to have major elements of our local food systems be organic, do organic requirements undermine the viability of smaller operations that may have higher unit costs? How much does the source of funding bias "independent studies?" We encountered, on occasion, similar issues in the green building arena, especially effects of sustainable elements on the construction cost versus longer term operational costs. Also, some folks were sometimes accused of gaming the system to accumulate points for features that may not have otherwise been high priority and might not contribute much to a more livable world.

All of this, plus the continuance of National Poetry Month, prompts us to share today's poem. We think it could easily be added to a list of poems that could save America. What do you think?


A Purification

At start of spring I open a trench
in the ground. I put into it
the winter's accumulation of paper,
pages I do not want to read
again, useless words, fragments,
errors. And I put into it
the contents of the outhouse:
light of the sun, growth of the ground,
finished with one of their journeys.
To the sky, to the wind, then,
and to the faithful trees, I confess
my sins: that I have not been happy
enough, considering my good luck;
have listened to too much noise;
have been inattentive to wonders;
have lusted after praise.
And then upon the gathered refuse
of mind and body, I close the trench,
folding shut again the dark,
the deathless earth. Beneath that seal
the old escapes into the new.

Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can.
Please be kind to each other while you can.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Happy Earth Day! #NationalPoetryMonth

It's Earth Day. It's National Poetry Month. In honor of both we're going to share one of our favorite "earth poems." We think it says just about all that needs saying these days. We'll just leave it right here.

Earthrise taken on December 24, 1968

Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings

By Joy Harjo

I am the holy being of my mother's prayer and my father's song

                                                      —Norman Patrick Brown, Dineh Poet and Speaker


Recognize whose lands these are on which we stand.
Ask the deer, turtle, and the crane.
Make sure the spirits of these lands are respected and treated with goodwill.
The land is a being who remembers everything.
You will have to answer to your children, and their children, and theirs—
The red shimmer of remembering will compel you up the night to walk the perimeter of truth for understanding.
As I brushed my hair over the hotel sink to get ready I heard:
By listening we will understand who we are in this holy realm of words.
Do not parade, pleased with yourself.
You must speak in the language of justice.


If you sign this paper we will become brothers. We will no longer fight. We will give you this land and these waters "as long as the grass shall grow and the rivers run."

The lands and waters they gave us did not belong to them to give. Under false pretenses we signed. After drugging by drink, we signed. With a mass of gunpower pointed at us, we signed. With a flotilla of war ships at our shores, we signed. We are still signing. We have found no peace in this act of signing.

A casino was raised up over the gravesite of our ancestors. Our own distant cousins pulled up the bones of grandparents, parents, and grandchildren from their last sleeping place. They had forgotten how to be human beings. Restless winds emerged from the earth when the graves were open and the winds went looking for justice.

If you raise this white flag of peace, we will honor it.

At Sand Creek several hundred women, children, and men were slaughtered in an unspeakable massacre, after a white flag was raised. The American soldiers trampled the white flag in the blood of the peacemakers.

There is a suicide epidemic among native children. It is triple the rate of the rest of America. "It feels like wartime," said a child welfare worker in South Dakota.

If you send your children to our schools we will train them to get along in this changing world. We will educate them.

We had no choice. They took our children. Some ran away and froze to death. If they were found they were dragged back to the school and punished. They cut their hair, took away their language, until they became as strangers to themselves even as they became strangers to us.

If you sign this paper we will become brothers. We will no longer fight. We will give you this land and these waters in exchange "as long as the grass shall grow and the rivers run."

Put your hand on this bible, this blade, this pen, this oil derrick, this gun and you will gain trust and respect with us. Now we can speak together as one.

We say, put down your papers, your tools of coercion, your false promises, your posture of superiority and sit with us before the fire. We will share food, songs, and stories. We will gather beneath starlight and dance, and rise together at sunrise.

The sun rose over the Potomac this morning, over the city surrounding the white house.
It blazed scarlet, a fire opening truth.
White House, or Chogo Hvtke, means the house of the peacekeeper, the keepers of justice.
We have crossed this river to speak to the white leader for peace many times
Since these settlers first arrived in our territory and made this their place of governance.
These streets are our old trails, curved to fit around trees.


We speak together with this trade language of English. This trade language enables us to speak across many language boundaries. These languages have given us the poets:

Ortiz, Silko, Momaday, Alexie, Diaz, Bird, Woody, Kane, Bitsui, Long Soldier, White, Erdrich, Tapahonso, Howe, Louis, Brings Plenty, okpik, Hill, Wood, Maracle, Cisneros, Trask, Hogan, Dunn, Welch, Gould...

The 1957 Chevy is unbeatable in style. My broken-down one-eyed Ford will have to do. It holds everyone: Grandma and grandpa, aunties and uncles, the children and the babies, and all my boyfriends. That's what she said, anyway, as she drove off for the Forty-Nine with all of us in that shimmying wreck.

This would be no place to be without blues, jazz—Thank you/mvtoto the Africans, the Europeans sitting in, especially Adolphe Sax with his saxophones... Don't forget that at the center is the Mvskoke ceremonial circles. We know how to swing. We keep the heartbeat of the earth in our stomp dance feet.

You might try dancing theory with a bustle, or a jingle dress, or with turtles strapped around your legs. You might try wearing colonization like a heavy gold chain around a pimp's neck.


I could hear the light beings as they entered every cell. Every cell is a house of the god of light, they said. I could hear the spirits who love us stomp dancing. They were dancing as if they were here, and then another level of here, and then another, until the whole earth and sky was dancing.

We are here dancing, they said. There was no there.

There was no  "I"  or "you."

There was us; there was "we."

There we were as if we were the music.

You cannot legislate music to lockstep nor can you legislate the spirit of the music to stop at political boundaries—

—Or poetry, or art, or anything that is of value or matters in this world, and the next worlds.

This is about getting to know each other.

We will wind up back at the blues standing on the edge of the flatted fifth about to jump into a fierce understanding together.


A panther poised in the cypress tree about to jump is a panther poised in a cypress tree about to jump.

The panther is a poem of fire green eyes and a heart charged by four winds of four directions.

The panther hears everything in the dark: the unspoken tears of a few hundred human years, storms that will break what has broken his world, a bluebird swaying on a branch a few miles away.

He hears the death song of his approaching prey:

I will always love you, sunrise.
I belong to the black cat with fire green eyes.
There, in the cypress tree near the morning star.


When we made it back home, back over those curved roads
that wind through the city of peace, we stopped at the
doorway of dusk as it opened to our homelands.
We gave thanks for the story, for all parts of the story
because it was by the light of those challenges we knew
We asked for forgiveness.
We laid down our burdens next to each other.

Joy Harjo, "Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings" from Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings.  Copyright © 2015 by Joy Harjo.  Reprinted by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc..
Source:Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings(W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2015)

Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can.
Please be kind to each other while you can.