Today is Earth Day #50, but it will not be a celebration of our planet’s beauty and bounty. Nor will we march in protest of the many governments still lacking the political will to turn us back from our current path, one which is headed inexorably toward mass extinction.
This Earth Day we are staying home to save our families, friends, communities and ourselves from the more immediate danger of Covid-19. This is a precious day in which to reflect on where we are now, and where we want to go.
Jane Hirshfield (1953 – ) was born in New York City. She is the author of ten collections of poetry, including Of Gravity & Angels, The Beauty, and her most recent book, Ledger. She served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets (2012-2017).
I chose her poem for this Earth Day because we all owe a debt to our planet, which can only be paid by taking better care of our one and only home.
Please click to read Jane Hirshfield’s poem, “My Debt.”
by Jane Hirshfield
who believe in the senses,
I was an accountant,
Permitted to touch
the leaf of a thistle,
work of a spider.
To ponder the Hubble’s recordings.
It did not matter
if I believed in
the party of particle or of wave,
as I carried no weapon.
It did not matter if I believed.
I weighed ashes,
cities that glittered like rubies,
on the scales I was given,
in units of fear and amazement.
I wrote the word it, the word is.
I entered the debt that is owed to the real.
spine-covered leaf, soft-bodied spider,
one curious tentacle back toward the hand of the diver
that in such black ink
I set down your flammable colors.
“My Debt” from Ledger, © 2020 by Jane Hirshfield – Borzoi Book/Alfred A. Knopf