Monday, September 23, 2019

Solutions for the End of the World 1

I went to a Climate Strike gathering on Friday in Santa Fe and listened to a number of young people speak about the reality of the world situation, about organizing, about doing something in the face of this massive catastrophe. It almost made me cry with joy. Seeing their energy, their fierceness, their joy, I think they may be unstoppable. 

With that in mind I will be posting over the course of the next week a seven-part poem that addresses climate catastrophe. 
Part desperate inquiry, part satire, part alchemical experiment, part spell, part ceremony… 


It’s called:

Solutions for the End of the World.

It started out as a psychological experiment.

About a year ago I noticed that when I read climate catastrophe news (and the news in general),

I went into a cycle of heightened anxiety, and then would swing between states of rage and numb paralysis.

What was at the heart of the rage, anxiety, and paralysis

was a deep, deep sorrow – grief.

So, this summer, I decided to incorporate headlines and frightening scientific predictions into a poem, thinking that would somehow give me a sense of control, and so abate the anxiety and rage.


From the beginning I wanted to address the fact that the human mind (my mind, at least) was having a hard time grasping the insolubility of the climate catastrophe. Even if we stopped carbon emissions tomorrow, the earth will still be significantly changed…it’s too late to save the earth that I knew as a child. 

What the youth of the world are trying to do now is save what we’ve got left, adjust to this new earth and ameliorate massive civilization-wide chaos.

So the premise of the poem came out of grief for what has been and will be lost. It is the sequel to another long poem of mine on the climate catastrophe called

Swansea, Wales - Location of Poem Tidal Flats

Goya, A Feathered Eel, and Maria Prophetissa

Three characters appeared in the poem, right at the beginning. The first character was Goya – the Spanish artist. He became the voice of reason, of trying to look at the overwhelming situation primarily in terms of a sarcastic (and somewhat nihilistic) rationality.

There is Plenty to Suck - from Goya's "Caprichos"

The second character to appear was a mythological Giant Feathered Eel that lives in the fracture rock somewhere below Santa Fe. It lives somewhere below us all. The beast is a creature of both the underworld and the sky (because of the feathers). Maybe it stands in as symbol for the unfathomable, overwhelming aspect of climate catastrophe on the tiny, tiny human mind. It causes paralysis, takes away speech…

Image of Quezacoatl - The Feathered Eel in the poem is a little different
The third character that appears in the poem is Maria Prophetissa. In alchemical literature, she is known as the first alchemist. She supposedly lived in Alexandria in the third century BCE. 

Maria Prophetissa, The First Alchemist
It is said that she was the first to formulate the famous (for alchemists) aphorism: “One becomes two, and two becomes three, and out of the third comes the one that is the fourth.” 
 It seems like nonsense but can be interpreted as having a relation to psychological growth (more on that later in the week).


for the End of the World

“Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

James Baldwin

The certitude that there is no salvation is a form of salvation, in fact is salvation.

Starting from here, one might organize our own life as well as construct a philosophy of history: the insoluble as solution, as the only way out.

E.M. Cioran

1.    Introduction of Fear, The Appearance of Goya

& A Feathered Eel

      The sun, insoluble,

            rises over the eastern ridge. Shadow, mist;

                                                        everything indistinct,

     unknowable as the cracked-glass patterns

            of plutonium-soaked ooze through

                               salt cave-walls near Carlsbad,    

                                                             as it falls, drop by drop,


    into deeper waters. I turn on the tap.           

                                                                   Particles drift,

            tiny last cries in the substrate, the dream-aquifer,

                            where final solutions float by…

            I splash my face, insoluble.

  Since the 80s, the rate of ice loss has increased six-fold. Organs

                        in my body lift, anticipate the fall – terror

                                                                 in my heart, stomach, spleen,

            as they float up, while the body plummets.

                                                                                        I drift

    out the window: a warship; a cabbage moth; a

                     cluster bomb with its enticing colorful toys, drawing

                                                                            children in;

                  a yellowjacket spinning around a dead cicada.

     Indistinct forms merge;

                                      solute and solvent exchange souls.

                        Goya appears near the ceiling, insoluble.

                        He is his own uncomputable function.

                        And so he is wearing a pair of plastic batwings.       

                        He smiles.

                        He says he could make a sketch of me,

                                                     sitting on the bed, head in hands,

foolishly trying to solve the equation of the earth and the human soul.

                        He will call it “The Joke.” Caprichos.

                        Organs float, bodies turn in the surf. Last year, 40%

of honey-bee colonies in the US died.

                                                            And I watch water disappear

            down the drain, unused, wasted,

                                into a realm of Precambrian fracture-rock,

                                                where a Feathered Eel swims, forever

       on the verge of devouring the world. 

The Sleep of Reason produces Monsters - From Goya's "Caprichos"

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