We listened but we didn’t do a thing.
Oh, Samantha marched, and Luther read a list,
and I chaired meetings. Glenda did I Ching.
And none of us believed apologists
for industries who claimed their little bits
of damage to our home lands weren’t so bad.
But Do? But Fight? A third of us signed chits
demanding less pollution. We were glad
we’d been so active, while we’d stayed polite.
We stayed on in the cities. We consumed.
The storm clouds thickened; we turned up the light
and read our anthems while the rockets zoomed
and birth control was honoured in the breech.
Jehovah gave his day job up to teach.
Dust devils in this jungle make me cough.
The last tapir, and I, and an angry sunburned spider,
count tree stumps and watch topsoil blowing off.
The spider sighs, and tries, but fails, to hide her
sadness. She says, ‘They have made this Hell.
to get “rich” quick. Who would have given odds
that men could do the Devil’s work so well?’
She does the spider dance that calls small gods.
Heat-stress cracked dirt shivers. Thunder rumbles.
‘No clouds,’ the tapir says. ‘No chance of rain.’
Small gods appear. A duo. The fat one grumbles,
‘Man’s gone too far’. The thin one says, ‘Again!’
He claimed that life was a simile, like a headlight.
These small gods are essentially one schtick cronies.
In addition to immortality and teleportation
each has a single power which alone is
a specific gift of material mutation.
The fat small god whose name translates as Fuel
decrees from now no drop of gasoline
or similar will burn. Each molecule
will turn into water for this arid scene.
The thin small god says, ‘I ban ammunition.
From now gunpowder transmutes into sand.
Men here will be in the same condition
as the other creatures, with their firearms banned.
I see a thought large as clouds would be,
were clouds as small as squirrels.
As quick as rumours, as rare as truth,
the promising thought unfurls.
I see it as a puff of smoke
too wispy to decipher.
This thought is worth more, it itself asserts,
than empires people die for.
I suddenly see — epiphany! —
how this can save the planet.
And then it’s gone, like forgotten song.
I no longer understand it.
The gurnards engage me in quiet conversation.
My surprise that I am breathing under water
gives way to wonder, first, that fish can talk
and, secondly, to their accent: Brummie bubbles.
A phantom Bull Ring! Fancy, at these fathoms.
I’ve been down so long that ‘up’ is an abstraction.
A basking shark, from Bristol by its vowels,
backs off when I recite the Nicene Creed.
I did not know I knew it, and I don’t.
The words flow from a channel that is other
to the one I’ve so far thought of as my mind.
This area of asphalt that the gurnards
patrol, they tell me, is a carriage way
laid down when Britain rose above the waves.
A bit of pre nostalgia for after Greenland’s ice slips into the seas.
The silly burgers loll at ease
upon the fading flora.
They fondly think that fauna extinct
is adorable in photos.
They read that their actions blight the earth
with heat and the proverbial ill wind.
They say they’ll solve the problems by
having fewer new grandchildren.
We don’t want facts and thought. We want a story
we believe in and can use to justify our killing
the planet while imagining we are safe.
Here’s one candidate story: soon the elite will live on Mars
and we will be among that proud elite.
(Fantasies compounded must come true.)
Here’s one candidate story: we are successfully inventing
ways to vaporise the poor and breathe the air
this releases to live forever and to fly.
The angels balance on the cloud bank’s moving edge.
Being angels they can easily fly or hover
without wings or with them. They look down
trying their best to remember Louisiana.
‘It was here,’ Ferulia says. ‘Or maybe there.’
They watch the polluted water extinguish the life
of many species and mutate some others.