from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

extinct is forever

Crossing the moor to see my dad yesterday I caught Benjamin Zephaniah on radio 4 reading his poem about not eating turkeys for Christmas. For the last couple of weeks, I have been having an intense discussion on veganism and animal rights on an internet forum, so the topic is even closer to the forefront of my mind than it usually is. A friend on the forum said that if suffering took the shape of a cloud, the weight of animal suffering at our hands would envelop the earth – a poignant image, especially coming up for the season of goodwill which we celebrate by eating so many of our fellow inhabitants here on this planet. 

Hearing BZ I was heartened to remember just how many poems there are that celebrate animals and their lives, that draw attention to their treatment by us, even though at times it seems as if so few people care.

This one, by the wonderful W S Merwin, breaks my heart every time I read it.

For a Coming Extinction
Gray whale
Now that we are sending you to The End
That great god
Tell him
That we who follow you invented forgiveness
And forgive nothing

I write as though you could understand
And I could say it
One must always pretend something
Among the dying
When you have left the seas nodding on their stalks
Empty of you
Tell him that we were made
On another day
The bewilderment will diminish like an echo
Winding along your inner mountains
Unheard by us
And find its way out
Leaving behind it the future
And ours

When you will not see again
The whale calves trying the light
Consider what you will find in the black garden
And its court
The sea cows the Great Auks the gorillas
The irreplaceable hosts ranged countless
And fore-ordaining as stars
Our sacrifices

Join your word to theirs
Tell him
That it is we who are important.

W S Merwin

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