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Litany: An Elegy

 

For the children

 
   Each tongue, it has been wisely said, speaks galaxies.

And when a language dies, a world—and all that has

    No other being elsewhere—fails; a silence falls

Where there was song, where there was something known no other

Lyric grasps.

                        Every species is a world

Of sound, a solid form of silence said. A body

    Of thought. And with each dialect drowned, each lexicon

Beached, the world that is a universe of all

    These knowing realms knows less, the living world grows less

Alive.

             And we, who cannot find a patch of ground
    
We do not need to claim, a wildness we do not need

To tame, fall deeper alone the thicker we crowd the biomes,

    The thinner we shave the ways there are of Being on this

Earth.

             And thought that flew like shorebirds, once, around

    The globe, refusing a single idiom or tide,

Idles mean abstracted streets and lives off scraps

    The sated throw away. Our words are made of plastic

Now and end up in the sea. Where stocks of wisdom—

    Overfished and toxic with cliche—dwindle and cease.
 

So what will there be left for us to say—by way

    Of remorse; what elegy, excuse, or prayer—when the sands

Along sub-tropic shores have grown so warm that no

    More male turtles hatch and make it to the sea?

And who will we be, our language atrophied a little

    More, when Norfolk parakeets run out of trees

To roost and fledge?


                                           And what will we grasp any more

    Of sin when all the devils that we know have slipped

The earth?

             And who will teach desire grace or passion

    Poise when nothing burns the forests of the night?

And when the last Savana elephant has scattered

    All the bones, what will we recall of grief

When our turn comes to let our dear ones go?

                                                                                           And how

    Will all the plastic that will never go extinct

School the seas in sanctity, what sense will awe

    Begin to make, when no blue whales swim the world

Around? And will our minds remember how to slow,

    Our speeding chill, when all the whale sharks have passed?

Sea otter, snow leopard, curlew, bee: divinity

    Will be burlesque, and joy will be a sham, when all

These Bodhisattvas of the floating, hungry, thrumming

    World have left.

                        Oh, Person of the Forest, orang-

Utan—who might be any one of us who came

    Down once from boughs—teach us, while there are still woods

To be, how to be the woods, not just the trees.
   
 
 

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