What do we really know? Rainforest
lungs of the planet, and we northerners
enjoined to rail against Brazilian excess
here, in the temples of Canfor, Weyerhauser
and further west, Macmillan Bloedel with
their measuring eyes. My grandfather, too
knew how to estimate, from the ground
both the height of a tree and its likely
board-feet; but understand, he moved by hand
and in photos, it’s his own sons on the roof.
Such luxury, a sturdy house big enough.
Rainforest lungs, bepanthered
and howling with small cousins of man
and womankind; in school, if we stuck it
far enough, our kind of Indians could learn
about The Yanomamo, stranger than monkeys
awesome and fragile, needing to stay stoneage
a luxury worth protecting, wild people of our own
holding it down for the Twentieth Century, the line
you know the line.
Here is a mystery: we got high enough
with our sensors and robots and cameras
to pick up the thin red evidence. It is the Sahara
who protects the Amazon. Scirocco lifts sand
into wind highways that run west, where it seeds
clouds over Amazonas. So, one desert, one forest
two lungs? If we regreen the erg, what of the giants
westward? If the rainforest falls, will sand
switch tactics, seize seeds in hot fists and go savannah
then jungle, breathing and shrieking in its turn?
What do we know, epochally?
Are we already emphesemal?How many lungs
does a planet possess? Taiga, tundra, prairie, swamp
how many lungs? Are we truly evil? Or
is this enviro-angst just a dying gasp from churches
lashing their way across the lands, sighing, ‘O Lord
I am not worthy to receive You,’ but sucking up
all the air. Luxury and poverty. Rattle in the lung.
What do we know?
Still, birds preen in northern morning sun in the tree
outside my window, an elder in an urban tribe
even now swelling with buds, waiting to exhale.
If there is a choice, as the Master sang, let the rivers fill
let the hills rejoice.* Whatever organ I inhabit, if there is
a choice, I’d be mitochondrial, so long as I can keep
a little luxury, my robe and slippers, coffee and time
for wondering, what do we know?
*Leonard Cohen, from 'If it be Your Will'