TCS: Miles of Sky – Poems for International Preservation of the Ozone Layer Day

. . 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.


The hole in the ozone layer is a kind of skywriting.
At first it seemed to spell out our continuing
complacency before a witch’s brew of deadly perils.
But perhaps it really tells of a newfound talent
to work together to protect the global environment.

– Carl Sagan


In a 2014 UN report, scientists announced that the Earth’s ozone layer has stopped shrinking, the first sign that 35 years of efforts to phase out harmful man-made cholofluorocarbons (CFCs) are beginning to have a positive effect. An updated study, “Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion: 2018” shows there have been additional small improvements, and concentration of ozone-depleting substances have continued to decline. These improvements are credited to the historic Montreal Protocol, finalized in 1987, in response to the reports on chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other ozone-depleting substances – used in aerosols, cooling and refrigeration systems, and many other items – which were tearing a hole in the ozone layer and allowing dangerous ultraviolet radiation to flood through. The Protocol is set to be strengthened in 2019 with the ratification of the Kigali Amendment, which calls for slashing of the future use of harmful gases in refrigerators, air conditioners and related products. These gases are one of the reasons for the escalation of Global Warming, and the Kigali Amendment is expected to play a role in turning back the dangerous warming trend which is increasing the intensity of weather events, and melting the polar ice caps at an alarming rate.


It saddens me to think that my generation is probably the last one to be required to memorize and recite poetry.  This poem used to be a very popular choice for small children to learn, but I wonder how many children today know it?

Who Has Seen the Wind?

by Christina Rossetti

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

“Who Has Seen the Wind?” from The Golden Book of Poetry (1947)

Christina Rossetti (1830–1894) was born in a family of poets and writers, the daughter of Gabriele Rossetti, poet and Dante scholar, and sister of poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti. She is best–remembered for her collection Goblin Market and Other Poems.


Breathing. Something which most of us take for granted most of the time.
But not all of us.


by Mark O’Brien

Grasping for straws is easier;
You can see the straws.
“This most excellent canopy, the air, look you,”
Presses down upon me
At fifteen pounds per square inch,
A dense, heavy, blue-glowing ocean,
Supporting the weight of condors
That swim its churning currents.
All I get is a thin stream of it,
A finger’s width of the rope that ties me to life
As I labor like a stevedore to keep the connection.
Water wouldn’t be so circumspect;
Water would crash in like a drunken sailor,
But air is prissy and genteel,
Teasing me with its nearness and pervading immensity.
The vast, circumambient atmosphere
Allows me but ninety cubic centimeters
Of its billions of gallons and miles of sky.
I inhale it anyway,
Knowing that it will hurt
In the weary ends of my crumpled paper bag lungs.

                                                                                                                        July, 1988

“Breathing” from The Man in the Iron Lung. © 1997 by Mark O’Brien – Lemonade Factory Press

 Mark O’Brien (1949-1999), American poet and journalist, was born in Boston, and raised in Sacramento, California. He contracted polio when he was six years old, and was left paralyzed from the neck down, needing an iron lung to breathe.  He earned a BA and an MA from the University of California–Berkeley. An advocate of independent living for disabled people, O’Brien was a frequent contributor to newspapers, writing columns on such topics as sports, religion, and disability issues. In 1997, he co-founded Lemonade Factory, a press that publishes work by people who have disabilities.


This poem by Simon Armitage was part of a British teach-in forum, where scientists and artists from many disciplines joined together to call attention to the dangers of air pollution.

In Praise of Air

by Simon Armitage

I write in praise of air.  I was six or five
when a conjurer opened my knotted fist
and I held in my palm the whole of the sky.
I’ve carried it with me ever since.

Let air be a major god, its being
and touch, its breast-milk always tilted
to the lips.  Both dragonfly and Boeing
dangle in its see-through nothingness…

Among the jumbled bric-a-brac I keep
a padlocked treasure-chest of empty space,
and on days when thoughts are fuddled with smog
or civilization crosses the street

with a white handkerchief over its mouth
and cars blow kisses to our lips from theirs
I turn the key, throw back the lid, breathe deep.
My first word, everyone’s first word, was air.

“In Praise of Air” — In May, 2014, it was installed on a wall at the University of Sheffield 

 Simon Armitage (1963 – ) was born in West Yorkshire, England, and is the author of several poetry collections, including Paper Aeroplane: Selected Poems 1989–2014; Seeing Stars; and The Shout: Selected Poems (2005), which was short-listed for the National Book Critics Circle Award


Ric Bastasa is a mystery. The only thing I know about him are his poems, but I like this one in particular.

 Air…Nothing But Air….

 by Ric Bastasa

i have not seen you
you are air
that passes me by
you are invisible and you
want to teach my heart
to love
so you ask the help of the
scented flower
and you made the petals dance
the buds open
and you have finally taught my
heart to sing
the songs of love
under the fullness of the moon

i feel you then…

can i change you into something that i can kiss
and touch and sleep with?
you are air still,
you are invisible,
i feel your essence but i cannot touch
your presence
my arms are empty
and longings still haunt me
you are still a certain space
that is never filled up
by any substance

you will pass me by
and i will feel the absence later
and this will amount to nothing but pain

more & more pain and so
i have decided for once
on a shorter notice
that as early as noontime
i shall forget you then
completely even before
the sunset comes.

I could find no biographical information about Ric Bastasa. He posts his poems at Poem Hunter.


Japanese poetry is like the air – its complex structure is unseen, and its strength is not fully understood.

Inahata Teiko:

flapping ceaselessly
test the sky’s upper limits 

Shinkichi Takahashi: 

The wind blows hard among the pines
Toward the beginning
Of an endless past.
Listen: you’ve heard everything.


Inahata Teiko haiku from Far Beyond the Field:Haiku by Japanese Women, © 2003 by Columbia University Press

 Inahata Teiko (1931 – ) learned haiku from her grandfather, Takahama Kyoshi. Her work includes several haiku collections and books dealing with haiku, and she is the editor of the magazine Hototogisu.

Shinkichi Takahashi poem, from Zen Poems of  China and Japan: The Crane’s Bill, © 1973, Grove Press

Shinkichi Takahashi (1901–1987) was a pioneer in the Dadaist movement in Japan. His Collected Poems won the Japanese Ministry of Education Prize for Art.


About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for the past 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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