Burying the Poems

Poet W.S. Merwin wrote, “On the last day of the world I would plant a tree.”

Why does that always astonish me? I don’t know.

April 22 was Earth Day. But every day is Earth Day. Don’t you wish that everyone
would have their heart seared by the realization that the Earth is helpless?

Someone strips a forest, wants to mine a wonder of a wilderness and we can only say, “No.” They don’t listen. And the tree next to the tree being dropped can’t fight to prevent the clear cut, only stand there in line, next. And the wilderness can’t defend itself, can’t even build a wall to keep out the ones who have no value for the ineffable, the wondrous, the soulful, that which profoundly nourishes each of us, the helplessly real.

And we need bees. Years ago a neighbor treated me as worse-than-worthless
for planting flowers. “What the hell are you doing, wasting time with flowers!?!”

He grew only vegetables, so many that he threw more than half away. Today he
would have a hard time bringing about a row of zucchini. I never
replied to his criticism. It was useless: I was a wuss of an “aesthete.” Had I
suggested the need and health of bees, he would have sneered, “Bees schmees.

Wherever he now is, I hope he has learned that we need bees, that they too
are helpless, defenseless, that they too can’t put up a fight.

Each day is THE EARTH’S DAY. We visit.

Burying the Poems

The night is still, the leaves calm
as a corpse when the words tell me,
“Be like the poet Alexander Kutzenov.

Bury your poems.” He sealed them
in glass jars like the finest currant jam,
laid them down into the earth and covered

their graves with leaves. I will do the same.
Slender light from the crawl of worms
will slide through the glass, lie between

the lines, along language’s slow syntax.
The dreaming earth with its lost souls
of slug and beetle, ephemeral scat of cat

and dog, drifting scent of nosing possum,
raccoon, and deer will mulch the poems’
quiet stay, the rhythms alkaline, the meanings

dormant in their disfigured corms. Moles
will come, nuzzle each jar. Voles will spin
like dervishes around the lids. Winter will

bring the hard frost tightening the ground.
Then following the breakage of spring and
the blisters of summer, the fall will raise

no harvest. Nothing there. Nothing to be there.
Only the jars under the lost dark green of leaves.

—Jack Ridl

A remarkable collection of poems that embodies
these ideas is Earth Again by Christopher Dombrowski
(Wayne State University Press)

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8 thoughts on “Burying the Poems

  1. Your observation that the earth is helpless struck a deep chord within me. The beauty of the earth has always spoken to my heart. Thank you for your wonderful observation and my patio is full of flowers….come on bees!

    • Yes yes yes, come, dear bees, come to Lyn’s magical patio.
      Thank you for telling me this. Thank you so much. Ya can’t know
      if what ya write has mattered unless told. Your telling me
      is sustaining.

  2. Jack, your wonderful thoughts and this week’s poem speak to my heart. This week has been exciting for us here at Nottingham nature Nook. The land across the street from my barn which I have wanted for 30 years went up for sale on Friday. On Saturday after watching the hordes of people trampled through the land I laid down in the middle of the field and became the land. After laying there for a long time I knew what had to be done. On Monday I made a bid on the land and on Tuesday they accepted my offer. Now the deer can bed down in the winter raise their fawns in the spring,the turkeys can roost in the trees and the rabbits can nibble on the dandelions and all the wild things will stay wild here at the Nook.Every day is Earth Day for me as well. Blessings,

    • Oh my Cheryl, this brings me such joy. I can see it all, see you, and see your
      warm smile as from now on you can look out and see who belongs on and in that land.
      With the deepest admiration and with care always,

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