Of Fracking and Flowers

Two poems from the archive

Happy New Year and welcome to our annual archive month, when the Dark Mountain team select highlights from our 22 print collections. Today, we begin with poetry that faces the storm: a searing 'docu-poem' by Craig Czury from Issue 20 on extractivism ABYSS, and a glimmering seed for the future by Nina Pick from Issue 16 REFUGE, chosen by our chief proofreader and plant teacher, Mark Watson. With artwork by Rebecca Riley.
Craig Czury's Postcards & Ancient Texts is a 40-year collection of napkin poems on his whereabouts from Wilkes-Barre to Albania to Argentina. ThumbNotes Almanac: Hitchhiking the Marcellus Shale , is his collection of docu-poems on hitchhiking around the Pennsylvania ‘fracking’ region. Nina Pick is a writer, teacher, editor and oral historian who, through these various practices, seeks to heal our relationship with our ancestors and the Earth.

Poems often bear testimony, bringing attention to events and experiences in the world that might be overlooked in the rush and distractions of daily life. These two poems, which might seem like polar opposites at first, both act as witnesses in this way.

Poet Craig Czury hitchhiked around Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna County, recording conversations with the people he met in this fracking region and making ‘docu-poems’ from them. ‘Here’s What Scares Us’ is from his collection Thumb Notes Almanac: Hitchhiking the Marcello Shale (2016), and addresses the experience of living in an area dominated by the extractive fossil-fuel industry.

The conversational tone is mild and unobtrusive, allowing us to ‘stay with the trouble’, as the fear and loss of agency in the face of the fracking predicament and its effects on communities hits home. It speaks directly to many aspects of modernity, where mechanical communications and the underlying threat of violence leave people feeling abandoned and not knowing what to do.

Nina Pick is a poet, writer, oral historian and longtime contributor to Dark Mountain. Her work often deals with intergenerational trauma and ecological collapse, but also explores the possibility of regeneration. ‘Seducing the Moon’ is a poem I come back to again and again, and I have read it aloud at Dark Mountain events and on teaching courses. Here, Nina shows how the ordinary activities of watching a nature programme or planting seeds, can bring each of us into a relationship with the more-than-human world in all its incredible diversity of hummingbirds and poisonous frogs. MW


Here’s What Scares Us

we don’t know what’s going on
we know what’s going on
but we don’t know all of what’s going on

we know what’s going on
but we don’t know who’s doing it

I mean we know who’s doing it
but we don’t know who exactly is doing it

we don’t know their names
we only know the company names

the why is obvious
it’s the how that leaves us a lot of questions

even when they explain it to us
even when their spokesman goes on tv

even when they parade their heavy equipment
past our farmhouses at breakneck speeds

even when they let us watch from the fence
in our cars afraid to get out

especially when they come to our door with papers to sign

What scares us is their uniforms
their uniform trucks and their uniform masculinity
the uniform air of their unified occupation
the un-uniformity of their money uniform cash flow
ignitable youth with muscle
calling it water and buying us off to drink

What scares us is we have laws to protect us
but they buy off the laws
they buy off the commissioners who regulate
the laws that protect what we have to live with
they write the fine print loophole
a small opening through which small arms may be fired
the scary part is we know how to read

It scares us we don’t know what to do
we don’t know who to talk to about what scares us
we don’t know who to contact
we don’t have a number and when we do we get referred we get re-routed
we get put on hold
we get frustrated then we start yelling saying things we can’t explain
that’s what scares us how angry we’ve gotten with no one to explain
it will go away it won’t go away like it doesn’t matter to anyone
except our neighbors when they used to be our friends
except our families when they used to be our friends
except our friends when we didn’t live under occupation
especially our friends who signed and moved away
what scares us is our daughters

Craig Czury


Seducing the Moon

The deep-voiced narrator of the nature programme tells us
that according to the ancient mythology of the region
hummingbirds were created to seduce the moon
which we can certainly believe
the lashes of their wings opening and closing flirtatiously
glistening like the blue heart of flame in the stark Andean light
the kind of light that opens our bodies like ripe oranges
and sticks its teeth in
as the azure-winged butterflies emerge from the chrysalis
and the world’s most poisonous frog unfurls its gelatinous tongue
while we watch Netflix holding hands in bed in our small apartment
just north of New York City as the sunflowers I recently planted
grow in the dark in the rain like a secret prayer
for the continuity of it all

Nina Pick


IMAGE: North Dakota in the Flowers by Rebecca Riley
Acrylic, fabric and maps on wood panel

North Dakota In the Flowers is one of a series of painted maps that include fabric printed with flowers. Flowers are used as a ‘Band-Aid’ on the maps, covering the areas where wounds such as fracking, megacities, mining, reservoirs and overdevelopment have been inflicted on the environment. (from Issue 20 – ABYSS).

Rebecca Riley grew up in Colorado, developing the strong connection to nature that fuels her work, widely shown and in many private collections. She earned a BA in art from Carleton College and an MFA from Pratt Institute. Her studio is in Ridgewood, Queens. She  teaches artin the New York City Public Schools.


Dark Mountain: Issue 20 – ABYSS

Our Autumn 2021 journal is a special all-colour collection of art and writing that delves into the legacy of extractivism


Read more

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