International Preservation of the Ozone Layer Day marks the day in 1987 when 24 countries signed the Montreal Protocol to reduce emissions damaging to the ozone layer by the year 2000. The ozone layer makes life on Earth possible, because it acts as a filter of the sun’s deadly ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
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
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. As 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.
To read Mark O’Brien’s poem “Breathing” click:
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.