Size / / /

Tankers off our coastlines spill blood

transported from across the world

already clotted black as it reaches us.

This time the victims are sea birds;

someone has voted their proxies,

perhaps at the committee considering

whether to put global warming on the agenda

for its last meeting ever.

I think of my high school chemistry teacher,

her smock brown from spilled tannic acid,

stopping in the middle of an experiment

to quote Francis Thompson to us:

"thou canst not stir a flower

without the troubling of a star."

The poem has stayed with me, the ink

of a permanent tattoo,

the meaning of a red rose

just before it's dipped in liquid nitrogen.

Absolute zero is stirring

in the President's head

while someone tolls a bell

in a drowned cathedral:

Death once

death twice

going, going. . . .

I try to listen for a green word

from the redwoods that haven't been

replaced by Redwood Village

but something crimson is in the wind.

Once more,

the planet's blood is on our hands,

and not enough clean water left to wash it off.




Duane Ackerson's poetry has appeared in Rolling Stone, Yankee, Prairie Schooner, The Magazine of Speculative Poetry, Cloudbank, alba, Starline, Dreams & Nightmares, and several hundred other places. He has won two Rhysling awards and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. He lives in Salem, Oregon. You can find more of his work in our archives.
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