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
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
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
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
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?
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.