News at Nine, now. And our first story of course is
What everyone’s talking about today. The weather.
Yes, winter has hit, and hard. Lots of traffic
Snarl-ups this morning, with tailbacks of two hours,
Cars sliding on the icy surface after the first snowfall
Of the season. Hundreds of hub workers literarily
Frozen in gridlock on their way in from the suburbs:
Even those who left well before dawn to get a jump
On the rest forced to a slow crawl behind snowploughs
And salt spreaders – an army of which were out
All night, trying to keep the cars moving, and will be
In force for the rest of the cold snap.
Yet, it didn’t get
Any better during this evening’s commute, people
Still on the road as we speak. We’ll be taking you
Live, later to our on-site reports from a host of
Highways and byways, where there’s not much
Headway being made at all.
And what a shock
To the system; suddenly, the hot weather
We were all becoming so accustomed to, has gone
For now. The beer gardens and restaurant
Terraces, that were teeming last weekend, now
Deserted but for a few forlorn sparrows seeking
Crumbs under the drifts of their new white home.
While we’re faced with a whole lot of inconvenience
For the foreseeable future. Especially those travelling
Long distances, another thing we’ve become used to.
Wheel chains compulsory on certain routes; time to
Change to all-weather tyres and fill up on anti-freeze.
Perhaps only the kids are happy, with a delayed
Arrival at school and perhaps a free day tomorrow,
As it’s set to freeze hard again, especially in the hills
While the rest of us just shrug and get on with it,
Hoping there won’t be a power cut and we can get
The drive shovelled before our extra-hour-long drive.
Nevertheless, it’s worth reminding ourselves
That we used to be used to this, this used to be usual,
And for once we can go skiing or sledding, so get that sleigh
Out of the shed, and if you have kids make a snowman –
Making sure to film them, for they mightn’t remember
All this in twenty years, and think it a fairy tale.
Take them to the woods at least, for the first time
This year, perhaps, without worrying about tick bites
Lyme Disease and the other nasty bugs they transmit.
The flies, too, are dropping like they’re famed to, but
Have been plaguing us on our patios till now, and
The mosquitos are also finally dying so Deet isn’t needed
To keep West Nile virus and Yellow Fever at bay, till spring.
Next spring there might be fewer lines of those
Poisonous processionary caterpillars for your dog to
Get mixed up with, if this hard frost penetrates their nests,
Giving foresters a break in their pine plantations, too.
The farmers will also be happy, since the grasshoppers
Aren’t nibbling at their sown winter cereals now, and
Perhaps a crop will come up green before next year’s
Eggs are hatched and ravenous at the sprouting stalks.
As for traffic, well, better have your car buried
By snow, which at least you can dig out of, than have
It carried off down the street by a flash flood, like
We saw during last month’s devastating torrential rains.
So, before we go to our roving reporters, a quick
Recap of international news, including new warming
Recorded in the Greenland icecap, and a typhoon
Threatening the already soaked and suffering Bengalis.
I wrote this poem ten years ago now. I didn’t think it was that long ago. But boy, has a lot happened in those ten years. Well, actually, no. Regarding the subject of the poem, sweet F A has happened. Except that the problem has gotten 10 years worse, and will take us longer than ten years more to fix-slash-reverse the effects of those ten years.
So why am I posting this now? Well, you’ve probably all heard about the new findings showing that the western Antarctic ice sheets are going to melt. Going to. No might, no perhaps, no could or even will, if we…. They are going to melt. And Meghna, the last stretch of the Ganges, will then become the shallow harbour of Bangladesh. And there will plenty of shallow harbours around the world, it seems. And also shallows where once there were islands. There are calls to action. But will we act?
The Shallow Harbour of Bangladesh
Standing upon the rise, beard growing icicles in the wind,
Eyes weeping from it and the fields falling frozen before him,
Drifts against dead hedges, reindeer shelter in lees,
Eking out the existence once thriving life with sheep,
When the warm rain came.
Crouching on dry gravel, shaking stones in fist,
Scatters, shaking head at emptiness,
Lizard skitters across pebbles, scavenging scarce parched seeds,
Sun beats upon neck back and all before, years,
Used to draw grains and vines once sustained by winter snow,
And spring showers that sprinkled flowers,
Now storms wash out ravines of dust and dried husks.
A man stands proud upon a prow, poling into treacherously turbid estuary
Drowned mangroves threaten to mire like the lost tiger,
Channel shallows past the Sundarbans, showing signs of past life,
Here and there stilts stick up that once held houses,
Where one would watch the Ganges disgorge slowly,
Switched around to see the sea swallow,
Several names of river back to the border,
Splitting into a harbour a hungry nation awaiting huddled upon the bank,
The man sailing over rice paddies,
Fishing upon his former fields.