The Day After We Sold the World

James Owens's most recent collection of poems is Mortalia (FutureCycle Press, 2015). His poems, stories, and translations appear widely in literary journals, including The Fourth River, Kestrel, Tule Review, Poetry Ireland Review, and Southword.

On 1 June 2017, the USA decided to exit the Paris Climate Accord

Two-inch shoots of corn lift from the cracked mud
of fields that were deep in flood a week ago.
Life doesn’t stop. This is comfort or warning or both.
Beside the trail, the water for long stretches

is suffused, almost too washed in light to see
as it soughs and blurs over stone
because it is noon and the sun comes straight
down, soaking the ravine, rather than slanting in

and pouring it full of shadows, as it will later.
Water-striders skitter and pause, skitter
and pause, dimpling the surface, and frogs
kick like mad as they swim below them.

I am here, too. I sit above the waterfall, don’t think
but watch a blacksnake, this beautiful genius,
insinuating up the middle of the stream, winding

against the current, from far down, a bit of dark rope
or thread, a moving brush stroke suspended
in the invisible flow, above his shadow twisting
like smoke on the pale-yellowish slate of the stream bed,

curling as he sways through patches
of shade and sun, up to the falls, and out
onto a ledge beside the foam to stretch and bask.

I go home, and a grey catbird hops along the porch rail.

Insert poem attribution here

  1. Beautiful. The poem reminds me of the last paragraph in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. A hint to the hope that even if we, as humans, destroy ourselves, life will continue.

    “Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.”

    C. McCarthy, The Road


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