Considering Leaves: After John Trudell

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You could rake leaves while the glaciers melt
and horses stand somewhere in a field
with the sound of wind blowing rain into their manes
you could go to a job you don’t love
and live in a house you don’t want
and sit in traffic and feel trapped watching
the eagles dive above the light posts and power lines
or you could stop raking and lay down in the dirt
with the leaves scattering around you
smelling like the coming snow
and the rattling ghosts of summer lightning
you could pick up a river and hold it to your eye
watch a turtle crawl through it
the light turbulent out of the sky beyond the bluffs.
          Instead of serving these mad corporations and law makers
oblivious to the dew on the pigs hindquarters at morning
or the effort it takes ducks to find food after such a wet summer
you could sit round a fire next to the lake and
listen as the water carries voices from a canoe
out somewhere near the middle
back to your camp along the stony shore
and as the fire licks at the red pines
you could uncover a memory that
smells like moose hooves and orchids
wild rice hulls and trumpeter swans
and helps you to remember the millions
of invisible miracles which must occur within the sky
so that a blizzard can become a blizzard.
          This memory is what the mad kings and architects
of the anthropomorphic rivers want you to forget
because if you do not remember the smell or feel of the land
then you will believe anything they tell you about it
including that it is just another body to exploit.
          But if you remember the sound of waves
pulling back through the hair of beaches
or the ring of wind among icicles and sparrow caves
you have not forfeited all of your freedom and power
to the ruthlessness of modern convenience
and if you remember otters sliding across the lake at dusk
or a bear rushing back into the alder
then you also remember
that you are among the millions of tiny miracles within the sky
that allow a blizzard to become a blizzard
and if you can remember this
then you can speak sing and dream loud as thunder
for every quiet piece of land and water on this earth
because you have not forgotten
that you
not the mad kings
are the one with power.

Ben Weaver is a songwriter and poet who travels by bicycle using relationships of all kinds to help awaken greater reciprocity between people and the land. Recent human-powered expeditions have taken him down the Mississippi River, around Lake Superior, across the Kenai Watershed in Alaska and throughout the Netherlands. Given the choice he will side with the animals, lakes, rivers and the trees.  For more info please visit benweaver.net

Photograph by Jonathan Levitt jonathanlevitt.com

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20 thoughts on “Considering Leaves: After John Trudell

  1. Ben,

    Thanks for your eloquent commentary on what our lives should be, but sadly are not for the most part.

    Jonathan,

    Love grey snowy days in the evergreens, by a cold rushing stream. Wish I was there… Nicely done.

  2. Dear Ben Weaver , Just to let you know , that like the voice of the Shrike Thrush, like the bark of the Sambha Deer , like the smell of the Moose hooves. Your words ,this morning, rise with the morning sun and cajole us from slumber. A thousand thankyous . I shall share widely .

  3. This is an exquisite work of art. My favorite:
    “…if you remember the sound of waves
    pulling back through the hair of beaches
    or the ring of wind among icicles and sparrow caves
    you have not forfeited all of your freedom and power
    to the ruthlessness of modern convenience
    and if you remember otters sliding across the lake at dusk
    or a bear rushing back into the alder
    then you also remember
    that you are among the millions of tiny miracles within the sky…”

  4. [Dear Moderator – this one please – without the typo!]
    I like poems like this, that tell the obvious truth, the easy truth. Uncloaked and offering. I like poems like this, that hold that part of me awake, that if it were to sleep, so would I – and all of me. I like this poem. A lot. (And thanks.)

    • This poem came to me in a flash, from some wild and fertile place in the dirt of the universe. It was a gift to have it pass through me, and it’s an even greater gift to see it reach so many people. That is where I’ve always believed the art belongs, with the people. Thank you all.

      • Aho Ben Weaver! Lest I forget the power of poetry as I struggle with my pen….Thank you for your deep listening and translation. Stunning.

  5. This poem resonates with me, far far away from you in Western Australia, where my community is resisting our local mad king from tearing a road through our precious wetlands. Here we have hot dry winds, and tough resilient banksia trees, bobtail lizards, oblong turtles, bandicoots and cockatoos, but a sadly similar story. It is soul-destroying and awful eco-vandalism to witness but your poem gave me some hope, that we are powerful as individuals together. As we watch our trees and animals destroyed by a bulldozer, our community grows stronger. Thank you for your beautiful words.

  6. Thank You!…your words touched my soul in the middle of the rush of a weekday morning, after preparing breakfasts and lunches for all and running to not miss the bus and the train and get late to the job I don’t have but still perpetuates the status quo…but pays the bills and the mortgage and the debt and the cage where I keep myself and my kids and (sometimes, during my backpacking trips to ecovillages, herbal workshops and permaculture teaching) remember that I too, am a miracle like that blizzard, like the plant allies and the birds that follow me, like my kids siting behind computers and not accompanying me in my travels, like the man I love who has forgotten the passion for books and adventures that brought the two of us together…
    Thank You!

  7. I’ve needed this poem in my life. Thank you to Ben for sending it my way through the serendipitous ways of the universe. It has soften and thawed a part of me that was starting to be lost amid the trials of modern society. It made me cry with joy, love, confidence in my worldview, sorrow, hope, and loss. I am rejuvenated!

  8. Beautiful poem Ben, thank you so much. I kinda want everyone I know to read it! Would it be OK if I posted it on my blog and properly credited you? Or would it be better if I linked it to this page?

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