TCS: Eyes of Another Intelligence – Earth Day Poems

. . Good Morning!


Welcome to The Coffee Shop, just for you early risers on Monday mornings.
This is an Open Thread forum, so if you have an off-topic opinion burning
a hole in your brainpan, feel free to add a comment.


When one tugs at a single thing in nature,
he finds it attached to the rest of the world.

― John Muir


Earth Day # 49. We’ve been having them since 1970, with increasing urgency. A Gallup Poll from March 2019 shows that 66% of Americans believe global warming is caused by human activities, but only 45% think global warming will cause a serious threat in their lifetime.

It’s hard to “think globally,” especially when conclusions are the stuff of nightmares. So here are five poets whose points of view shift from the abstract to the personal and back. If we’re lucky, we may find a signpost pointing toward Earth Day #50 along the way.


Global Warming

by Jane Hirshfield

When his ship first came to Australia,
Cook wrote, the natives
continued fishing, without looking up.
Unable, it seems, to fear what was too large to be comprehended.

“Global Warming” from The Beauty, © 2015 by Jane Hirshfield – Alfred A. Knopf

Jane Hirshfield (1953 –) was born in New York City. She is the author of eight collections of poetry, including The Beauty: Poems, which was long listed for the National Book Award. She served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2012 to 2017.


Some Effects of Global Warming in Lackawanna County

by Jay Parini

The maples sweat now, out of season.
Buds pop eyes in wintry bushes
as the birds arrive, not having checked
the calendars or clocks. They scramble
in the frost for seeds, while underground
a sobbing starts in roots and tubers.
Ice cracks easily along the bank.
It slides in gullies where a bear, still groggy,
steps through coiled wire of the weeds.
Kids in T-shirts run to school, unaware
that summer is a long way off.
Their teachers flirt with off-the-wall assignments,
drum their fingers on the sweaty desktops.
As for me, my heart leaps high—
a deer escaping from the crosshairs,
skipping over barely frozen water
as the surface bends and splinters underfoot.

“Some Effects of Global Warming in Lackawanna County” from New and Collected Poems: 1975-2015, © 2016 by Jay Parini – Beacon Press

Jay Parini (1948 –) was born in Pennsylvania. He has published multiple collections of poetry, as well as novels, biographies and academic texts. His first book of poems, Singing in Time, was published in 1972.  He has received fellowships from Christ Church at Oxford University, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the School of Advanced Study (Institute of English Studies) at the University of London.


Earth Day on the Bay

by Gary Soto

Curled like a genie’s lamp,
A track shoe from the 1970s among seaweed,
The race long over, the blue ribbons faded,
The trophies deep in pink insulation in the rafters.
Perhaps the former distant runner sits in his recliner.

The other shoe? Along this shore,
It could have ridden the waves back to Mother Korea,
Where it was molded from plastic,
Fitted with cloth, shoelaces poked through the eyelets,
Squeezed for inspection.

I remember that style of shoe.
Never owned a pair myself.
With my skinny legs I could go side-to-side like a crab,
But never run the distance with a number on my back,
Never the winner or runner up heaving at the end.

I bag that shoe, now litter, and nearly slip on the rocks.
Gulls scream above, a single kite goes crazy,
A cargo ship in the distance carrying more
Of the same.

“Earth Day on the Bay” © 2016 by Gary Soto

Gary Soto (1952 – ) was born in Fresno, California. He is a poet, novelist, and children’s author known for his reflections on the Chicano experience.


Song for the Turtles in the Gulf

by Linda Hogan

We had been together so very long,
you willing to swim with me
just last month, myself merely small
in the ocean of splendor and light,
the reflections and distortions of us,
and now when I see the man from British Petroleum
lift you up dead from the plastic
bin of death,
he with a smile, you burned
and covered with red-black oil, torched
and pained, all I can think is that I loved your life,
the very air you exhaled when you rose,
old great mother, the beautiful swimmer,
the mosaic growth of shell
so detailed, no part of you
simple, meaningless,
or able to be created
by any human,
only destroyed.
How can they learn
the secret importance
of your beaten heart,
the eyes of another intelligence
than ours, maybe greater,
with claws, flippers, plastron.
Forgive us for being thrown off true,
for our trespasses,
in the eddies of the water
where we first walked.

“Song for the Turtles in the Gulf” from Dark. Sweet. – New and Selected Poems, © 2014 by Linda Hogan – Coffee House Press (reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database)

Linda Hogan is the author of several poetry collections, including Rounding the Human CornersThe Book of Medicines, which received the Colorado Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Seeing Through the Sun. She also writes prose, and is currently writer-in-residence for the Chickasaw Nation. In 2007 she was inducted into the Chickasaw Hall of Fame. Her other honors and awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, the Henry David Thoreau Prize for Nature Writing, a Lannan Literary Award for Poetry, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas. Hogan has taught at the Indian Arts Institute and the University of Colorado, where she is a professor emerita. She lives in Colorado.


Art Project: Earth

by Karen Skolfield

Balloon, then papier mâché.
Gray paint, blue and turquoise, green,
a clouded world with fishing line attached
to an old light, original to the house, faux brass
chipping, discolored, an ugly thing. What must
the people of this planet think, the ground
knobby and dry, the oceans blue powder,
the farmland stiff and carefully maintained.
Sometimes they spin one direction,
then back again. How the coyotes howl.
How the people learn to love, regardless.
The majesty of their own towering hearts.
The mountains, which they agree are beautiful.
And the turquoise—never has there been
such a color, breaking into precious
and semi-precious stones. They build houses
from them, grand places of worship,
and there is much to worship. Look up,
for instance. Six suns. The wonder of it.
First one, then the next, eclipsing
the possibility that their world hangs by a thread.

“Art Project: Earth” © 2015 by Karen Skolfield (reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database)

Karen Skolfield is the author of Frost in the Low Areas (Zone 3 Press, 2013), winner of the 2014 PEN/New England Award in poetry. She teaches writing at the University of Massachusetts and lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.



  • On Coffee Mug: Earth Day Gaia Celebration by Georgeta Blanaru
  • HMS Endeavour – by Samuel Atkins, circa 1794
  • Robin in winter
  • Beach trash
  • Gulf of Mexico Sea Turtle
  • Home-made globe




About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for over 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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2 Responses to TCS: Eyes of Another Intelligence – Earth Day Poems

  1. Wonderful poems with an important message.

    • wordcloud9 says:

      Thanks Becky –

      I had to wade through a fair amount of doggerel to find them, but they’re proof that good poems can be written about almost any subject.

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