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Poem: "The World's Widows" - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "The World's Widows"
This poem was inspired by prompts from minor_architect and ellenmillion. It was sponsored by minor_architect. It deals with the issue of environmental migrants.


The World’s Widows


How do you say farewell
to the land where you lived,
the land that you loved?

How do you say farewell
to a land that has died and
left you alone in a mob of millions
all desperate to escape the desolation?

There is no word for widows such as we.
Can you kiss the dried lips of the Earth?
Can the empty arms of the river embrace you?
There is no beloved body to bury here.
There is not even a coffin,
for the trees, too, are gone.

All that is left is the packing.
Pick up the pieces of your life
and stuff them into a suitcase
or a wheelbarrow or a backpack.
Take what little food remains
and the dust-gray rags of your garments.
Take, perhaps, one pebble
to remind you of the homeland
that died and left you bereft.

Then take the stick-thin hands of your children
and walk away from it all.
Walk away from everything you have ever known,
walk until your feet hurt as much as your heart,
and walk until you are so tired that not even
nightmares can keep you from sleep
when you all fall down.
Walk and hope that when you get to the city
someone will take you in,
not turn you back into the barrens to die.
Pray that you find someone who will see you,
footsore, heartsore,
and see that there but for the grace of Nature go they.

The weather has run mad.
The wind screams like a woman scorned,
slapping cheeks and pulling hair.
The rain beats the dirt like a drunken man
and then disappears for months.
The hail comes like the hard heels of bad children
who run through the fields mashing the little plants.

Everything is changing and nobody knows
how to stop it. Everyone is moving
in search of someplace safe, but
noplace is really safe anymore. Run from
one to another, catch your breath then
run again. Spit truth in the
faces of the hardhearted:

“Today it is me. Tomorrow it could be you.”

There are enough tomorrows
to turn us all into the world’s widows.

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Current Mood: tired tired

7 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
From: minor_architect Date: May 6th, 2009 01:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
There is no word for widows such as we.
Can you kiss the dried lips of the Earth?
Can the empty arms of the river embrace you?
There is no beloved body to bury here.
There is not even a coffin,
for the trees, too, are gone.


I was drawn to this verse the most; the descriptions are very stark, but I like them. Good job! :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 6th, 2009 04:23 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you

I'm glad that this poem works for you. It's a very edgy piece.

Our discussions are largely bounded by the vocabulary that languages provides. It's difficult to talk about some things for lack of words. Sometimes I coin words for the purpose, but in poetry, often it's more effective to stand there and point at the gaping hole. So many people today have lost a connection to the land, they forget how important it is to others. I brought in the "widow" idea and pointed out the missing synonym because it would give people an emotional situation they could relate to more effectively.
From: minor_architect Date: May 6th, 2009 05:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad that this poem works for you. It's a very edgy piece.

It is edgy - but I developed a taste for such when I read my first collection of Ellison's short stories, way back when. >;)

It's difficult to talk about some things for lack of words.

Even more difficult in this case, perhaps, because we're discussing a topic that's fairly new to our generation? (I know I'd never heard of "environmental migrants" before yesterday!)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 7th, 2009 05:06 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>>It is edgy - but I developed a taste for such when I read my first collection of Ellison's short stories, way back when.<<

I have a taste for edgy stuff too, though I have my limits. Also, my partner Doug is a serious fan of Harlan Ellison.

>> Even more difficult in this case, perhaps, because we're discussing a topic that's fairly new to our generation? (I know I'd never heard of "environmental migrants" before yesterday!) <<

Yes, that's true. And yay, I achieved my goal of raising awareness! "Environmental migrants" are people forced out of their homes by chronic climate change issues (drought, rising sea level, etc.) while "environmental refugees" or "envirogees" are people forced out by acute climate change issues (hurricanes, flash floods, wildfires, etc.).

I have previously written about this issue in Gaiatribe:
http://gaiatribe.geekuniversalis.com/2009/02/24/three-questions-climate-fears-are-driving-ecomigration-across-globe/
http://gaiatribe.geekuniversalis.com/2009/03/19/environmental-refugees/



From: minor_architect Date: May 7th, 2009 12:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have a taste for edgy stuff too, though I have my limits. Also, my partner Doug is a serious fan of Harlan Ellison.

*nods* Same here. When "edgy" becomes "blood and gore just for the sake of it," I stop reading.

As for Doug - good on him! ;) I've been reading and collecting Ellison's work since before my own high school days. I'm not such a hardcore fangirl anymore but I'm not getting rid of his books anytime soon, either. (I'm trying to branch out, based on the advice of some of my friends, which is why I've been reading some of Neil Gaiman's stuff now. No offense to the guy - but as I've been going through American Gods, I can't help feeling that he's standing on the shoulders of giants, y'know?)

Also, thank you for the other link to more information on ecomigration! I'll have to take a look at that shortly.
From: browngirl Date: May 6th, 2009 03:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
There really are.

*sighs* This is beautiful as ever. Well done.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 6th, 2009 03:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thuoghts

Thank you. This seemed like a good opportunity to raise awareness about an issue that hasn't yet gathered a lot of attention, but is growing rapidly.
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