Of Plastic and Plasticity
Peering out over open water: green wash,
No spot of black to mark a seal, nor sight
Of white to indicate ice upon which to strike,
The bear turns about, towards dry land,
And trundles away from the shore,
Following a novel scent, not so sure
To signify a meal, but more appealing
Than sterile saline. The stench of humans
Almost overpowers hunger, pull of putrefaction,
But cautiously the bear pads across scraped
Gravel and strands of soft stuff –not snow – and
Colourful lumps, shiny hard strips and bits.
A sharp set of claws upturns tins and other
Things the bear has never seen, and finds skin,
Bones and shreds of flesh of prey never tasted:
Not even raw; changed in a way it can’t fathom.
Other animals abound – gulls and foxes and
Neighbour bears. But she fights for her share
Of the spread-out spoils of some unknown
Carnage, scavenging scraps of flesh amid debris,
Some of which is stuck with string, some
Clinging to wrappers – has to be eaten also –
But are surely shed easily enough
As would be ingested seal skin and bone.
Some men with glasses from a far observe
The animal with consternation, as it with
Relish ingests the refuse: Earth’s greatest
Quadruped predator reduced to such. But
Others shrug at suggestions of contamination,
Considering the data and the sea state –
Since even artic snow and summer rain contain
The same chemicals as the landfill, and
The seals are a dish equally intoxicating
From fish swimming in poisoned brine.
What use, they wonder, a pristine scene
Without seals within reach of a beach,
Other than to produce a perfectly clean
Bear carcass: healthy except for hunger?
The bear, on the other hand, now on land,
Is pulled by the wind past the dump, to
More varied carrion. Carcasses lie in woods:
Caribou, moose, deer and musk oxen;
Moving, the quarry could become new prey
Replacing seals, if bears become plastic enough.
The pinipeds themselves, if they are to survive,
Shall someday have to haul up on a shore to pup;
Walrus, too, must beach for calves to breach.
Eventually, perhaps, an adaptation to such crap
From our waste, awash in any water, solid or not,
They encounter, can give a chance for all species
To scarcely subsist somehow in a new balance.
But such hopes fast melt in plasticity’s absence.
Not the most up-beat of poems, but in some way a tiny bit optimistic for the predator if not species of large mammal facing the most precarious future of us all….
The Lilacs Have Already Faded
We wait as children for Christmas,
The bursting forth of buds, spread of
Poppies along bearding barley fields;
Delighting in drifting aspen down.
But if we perchance glance away
During spring’s apotheosis we find
The lilacs have already faded, and
Summer swiftly advances unto autumn.
Just as a blink allows the bastards
Take flame and machine to the trees,
Scraping drains in absence of rain,
Leaving shoots shorn dead as winter.
I wrote this last week when I was in my garden, seeing that the patch I didn’t mow the week before now sported a lovely little orchid.
But the lilac I had planted just beyond had lost its one flowerhead, having faded to brown already in the space from one weekend to the next.
And I thought of how quickly the spring passes, as usually, even when we vow not to miss it. It’s too short, even when its only summer on its way, we all know where summer leads….
Then I saw while on a cycle what the local roads authority had done, in May, to the hedges and scrub alongside the roads around the village – gone along with who knows what machinery and razed everything down to the ground. Of course, if they discovered plastic rubbish under that bush, they left that there.
What kind of mindset allows this to happen? Where are the leaders?
The locals just shrugged it off. It seems they think all this can be infinitely replaced, not that it’s a last bastion of such beauty.
Is it not possible to see that we are losing things before they’re lost, or are we doomed to miss only what we have completely exterminated?
The village in the north of Spain is not the only place where such destruction takes place, of course. Just last week a huge swath of Killarney National Park was burned by negligence or intentional malice.
On the other hand, I just finished reading Anne Frank’s diary for the second time, after about a 35 year gap… and I was struck by her passages about Nature.
Just like many during the lockdowns we went through, Anne realised that joy and peace can come from looking at the sky and the trees. Of course, even at thirteen and fourteen, Anne Frank was a very self-aware person compared to most around her, even then, never mind now.
I took snaps of the paragraphs. She wonders if her confinement indoors so long has made her so “mad about Nature” which is probably true to some extent, just as it was for many others. But she sees it as a medicine, “which can be shared by rich and poor alike,” and “the one thing for which there is no substitute.”
My question is whether that last line has sunk into our collective consciousness, or it is just that we can’t fathom our existence without Nature – even it if is out there, waiting for when we want it, after we’re released from prison, or our confinement, or we fancy a walk away from our computers? Until it isn’t.
And can we act as if something is lost before it actually is, giving us the chance to save it at the last minute.
Because we’re down to the last minute.
I started writing this last week, but incredible as it might seem from quarantine, I’ve been crazily busy in my little box!
so here’s what I wrote,
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, everyone
It’s a strange one. Hopefully just a blip on our normality, one we’ll remember for being the odd one out rather than the first year of a few way of doing things, a new way of life.
It’s a day to think about all the Irish around the world – which in turn makes us think of all the other migrants, emigrants and immigrants of every other country and culture that venture out into new lands and mix and mingle to make a more united world.
Some of those would like to be home now. Because they don’t know if they’ll get home soon, or when, or if ever.
And there might be loved ones they’ll never see again. Some who won’t be there when this is over, and whose last goodbyes we won’t be able to attend, either in the hospital or over a grave.
That’s a hard thing to say, though everyone is thinking of it – and if not, well, they’re really not aware of what we’re facing here.
And that reality of death should drive home to us – and definitely drive us home, where we all need to be right now, staying a good distance from those outside our immediate family/friends circle with home we’re sharing air and surfaces – the important things in life.
These are those same friends and family, both whom we can touch and not right now.
The simple things we never think of, like simply going for a walk.
Fresh air, exercise.
The sight of a tree, of a sparrow, a butterfly.
A smile from a stranger, a neighbour we’ve never talked to, the cashier at the supermarket.
And the unimportant things. Like hedge funds. We need hedgerows, not hedge funds, someone said.
We could simply stop trading for a few weeks, and we’d all be better off.
If they’ve closed the bars, and the shops, why not the stock exchange? How vital is it, really? What’s needed now is work, willingness, good faith and a calm comportment. Not overabundant in Wall Street.
Meanwhile we’re all inside, life is busily going on outside without us, glad for our absence. Songbirds can be heard now the traffic has gone down, the air is cleaner – for those blessed with a dog and an excuse to get out, but also for the rest of us with windows open to the spring – and I can only hope that the park maintenance has been reduced to unnecessary and the personnel redeployed to cleaning tasks (the street cleaning machine still trundles down past our house first thing in the morning though I doubt there’s much rubbish to pick up) so the grass and wildflowers can grow a little more unruly and insects can have a boon from our misfortune.
I only know that the first place my children and I will visit when we’re allowed out of our flat will be the park, to run in the grass and fall down in it and pick daisies and blow dandelion heads.
Till then, we’ll survive on our houseplants and fish tank and the tree outside the window and the birds that visit it.
And the knowledge that every day we stay inside the air quality improves, planes stay on the ground, and people realise they can survive perfectly well without buying plastic trinkets and clothes to fill their closets and that the water in the tap is good enough without having to fight over bottled water.
Stay safe, stay home, stay well.
We have good news and bad news.
No, not that Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump won the New Hampshire primaries, though for the natural world, and the rest of the world, it might be very significant in the long run.
I’m talking about things much closer to home, to Ireland and Europe.
First, the good news.
The European Parliament has voted to approve a report on the Mid-term review of the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy, which calls for the protection of the Birds and Habitats Directives.
They did this on the back of a huge public movement to urge their MEPs to protect the habitat, which shows the power of people to get the word out to their elected officials to do the right thing.
(Of course, we have to compare that to what happened in Ireland the other week, when the will of the people lost out to the vested interests of the farming community.)
It’s possible our efforts to save species are, in some cases, doomed to failure, due to past pollution we can’t turn the clock back on. Whales and dolphins in some areas will go extinct, including in Ireland, where despite our shores being a cetacean sanctuary, no orca calf has been spotted in twenty-five years.
Though the adults seem okay, the high load of toxins they carry from pollutants that have been banned for years seems to have rendered them unable to breed.
Orca pod off Ireland’s coast. Credit: Lt Alan O’Regan, XO L.E. Clare
This reminds me of what might have happened to any real animals in Loch Ness, waiting for that last example of a long-lived species to die. Will we have some Lonesome Fungi, an old lone dolphin, or an orca, like we had Lonesome George on the Galapagos? Even worse, when we go whale watching will we stare into the eyes of an animal who knows that their numbers are slowly dwindling, and they are destined to die out?
Waiting For Spring
Was a time when I would look for each tiny bloom
Of daisy, dog violet, Veronica and the like along paths
As if searching a stream for gold; each gleam a godsend
Lighting up my life as winter slowly died
After an icy age of snow and bare soil,C and spring sped well,
Bringing joy in the profusion of snow drops and crocuses,
Readying myself for daffodils and primroses.
However, as February begins, this year,
I think I haven’t waited quite enough;
Like a child looking forward to Easter
After only just emptying selection boxes,
It lacks lustre, seems not so sweet, even
Unto wincing when I spy a shoot protrude
Too soon, these should be delightful but
They descry the coming sickness
Like the shepherds said of red skies.
The sky outside my window…. A delight? or a warning?
Sometimes it’s hard to know.
We are having a wonderfully mild winter, when we are happy not to have to wear our woollies and have the heating on full blast… but we know spring is coming too soon to be good, and is more indicative of sickness in our midst…
I’ve not posted any poems in a while, so I decided to add a page of Haikus to my website today. Hope one or two will please 🙂
I was reminded of this by a friend on facebook today in reference to my second novel, Five Days in Ballyboy Beach, just accepted by Tirgearr Publishing. It is also, sadly, appropriate from the less romantic viewpoint of the amount of rubbish swirling round in the ocean – a paper just the other days suggested that melting arctic ice would release trillions of tiny pieces of plastic back into the water.
Along the Shore
I walked along the shore
Searching for stories,
And saw from the tide line there
Was no shortage of them:
A small apple, still intact,
Discarded from a recent
Cider-pressing at a nearby orchard,
Taken by the rain down a drainage ditch;
A balloon, lost by a boy
Who stared skywards, crying
As it sailed out of sight
Inside the blue, at
The truth of his father’s words
That it would fly away if he let go
More than at the loss of his toy;
The arm and lens-less frame of
A former pair of pink, heart-shaped sunglasses
Lost from a inflatable boat
Bouncing over the Caribbean,
Bought in a stall in the resort
At two in the morning by a gentleman
After travelling from a Guangdong factory;
A piece of string – a balled up knot of
Baling twine – tied to a gate on a mountain farm
In place of a hinge that had long since rusted off
And fallen into the mossy rocks,
Until it wore through with use,
Taken by the wind to the river
There to flow towards the ocean
Entwined in twigs and tree trunks
Till they too, rotted away, then
Enticing turtles as if tentacles;
Seaweed, streams of it, several hues of
Green and brown clumps covered in sand
Some curling as they desiccate, smelling of
Sea and the denizens of the deep,
Symbolising and indicating some
Small piece of the unseen reaches beneath
The lapping waves, wondrous, dangerous
Violent and intense as any city-street.