Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day Poem

Some years ago, I returned to the site of my undergraduate education (well, part of it) and my graduate one: U.C. Davis. In the years since I'd been back, the student body had doubled, from 17,000 to over 30,000, and the physical plant had grown bewilderingly large, so much so that I got lost--at a place where I'd studied and then taught for nearly a decade: how embarrassing. You can go home again; it's just that you can't find your way around.

Finally I made it to what I considered the center of campus--the quad and the coffee house. And at that point, time had stopped. For it was Earth Day (I think we used to call it Whole Earth Day), and the booths, people, music, and atmosphere all seemed the same as they were the first time I attended the gathering. Ah, I'm back at Davis, I thought.

Dogs, frisbees, herbaceous smoke, hand-made jewelry for sale, intense but friendly arguments going on, and all sorts of music, long skirts, bare feet, scarves, wild hair, and the original Good Vibes. At the perimeter, on the bike paths, herds of bicycles went by. (The bicycle-accidents at Davis sometimes involved hundreds of people. Somehow I avoided them all.)

I think the following Earth Day poem may be irreverent, but I'm not sure. The first line certainly is.

Bet On It

Sun, you bum, if you weren't close,
you'd be just any other star, one cold
fleck on a black velvet painting. Earth,
you globular oaf, if it weren't for Sun,
you'd drop down Time's abyss like a cold
marble. Moon, you sycophant, why
don't you grow something on yourself?
Humans, you fatuous, big-brained
locusts, you're killing your home by living
in it. God, You are looking more necessary
all the time--the Back-Up Plan. Some
see you as a long shot, at best. I'm with
Pascal. I'm making the wager. It's not
a lock, but it's the smart bet, especially
as we turn the place into a sauna and strand
polar bears on ice cubes. And who would
have bet, back there in the Big Bang Bar
and Grill, that Sun, Moon, Earth, and humans
would end up just so, tensely tethered
to each other? It's all impossible, of course.
Do the math. Yet here we are. Bet on it.
Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom
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