Part I – The Miracle
Imagine Earth fuelled by life-giving light,
Where whitecaps spit mile-high fury and spray,
Imagine up here day and down there night,
Imagine little lanterns luring prey.
Picture a small, blue planet of extremes,
From frigid wastelands to blinding sandstorms,
Picture smokers billowing from Earth’s seams,
Picture deep sea vents harbouring life forms.
Think of its chances of coming to pass,
By six day creation or primal stew,
Think of her birth as a fiery mass,
Think of what went into making you you.
Listen to bush birds ca-ca-ca-cackle,
Prick up your ears and tune into the night,
Listen to the creeping, lonesome jackal,
Listen to the owl swoop stealthy in flight.
Feel awed by the promise of spring teasin’
A sunlight smile from a tear in the cloud,
Feel gripped by the coming of each season,
Feel pity, for winter’s lost its white shroud.
Watch wild ones march to the beat of the sun,
Watch the drama before the delta dries,
Down to the Okavango one by one,
Watch the Kalahari during sunrise.
See a planet with a hot, molten heart,
A belly that rumbles, lungs that bellow,
See yourself playing just a minor part,
See New England turn a shade of yellow.
Tread lightly the Namib desert on your soles,
Know the heat of the dunes nothing can stand,
Touch a million billion hot, crystal coals,
Touch lightly the beetle darting ‘cross sand.
Golden eagles hunched in feathered overcoats,
A picture of misery in mountain rain,
On her tiny cub and giant panda dotes,
A picture of devotion filmed in fine grain.
Breathe in the morning at six thousand metres,
King of the mountains and all you survey,
Breathing suspended while a markhor teeters
On a rocky ledge not too far away.
Visualise the space between here and there,
Great rivers slow down as they approach the sea,
Visualise a planet laid totally bare,
From leafy sea dragons to Sturt’s desert pea.
Chart the mileage from the earth to the sun,
Right size and right distance, a blend so rare
Composed of five parts built one upon one:
Solid core, mantle, rock, water and air.
Unlock the mystery of evolution,
Tell me how a bird can know verb tenses?
How it masters human elocution?
Does our world consist of only five senses?
Part II – The Trials
Look at the condor in Andean skies
With long, black fingers it points and it peers.
Look at that cloud overhead as it cries,
Nature watering the Earth with her tears.
Weep for wooden soldiers as axes fall,
Kingpins collapsing on one another,
Trees butchered to make way for more sprawl,
Weep for falling comrades, green-hearted brother.
Mourn the passing of the great rainforests,
Cathedrals of sanctuary wide and tall,
Mourn the disappearance of citron crests
And the tiger, the pointlessness of it all.
Recall the Moche of Northern Peru,
Repaid nature’s drops of kindness with blood,
Recalled in the bones of a scattered few,
Their mud bricks dissolved in flood after flood.
Lament the slow browning of Gondwana,
Catch the last beech leaf on a hot, dry gust,
Lament the fierce onslaught of lantana,
Hooves in the wrong place kicking up dust.
Hear snorting and snoring of the bulldoze,
Hear the groaning of trees as they splinter,
Logging firms work round the clock to keep those
Sticks piled high for a nuclear winter.
Rare and delightful, numbering two score,
Amur Leopards from the high catwalk stare
At extinction in a few winters more;
Big cats of Amur, delightful and rare.
Drink from the well of brackish water
Dodge all the flotsam in open sea
Notice the reclining sea otter
Consume the mercury in his tea.
The possibilities evaporate,
When earth’s green belt is tightened notch by notch,
The future we cannot anticipate,
Yet we can do more than sit back and watch.
Big eats little and the rot just spreads,
Food chain tainted, salt in the table,
Toxic rivers sport fish with three heads,
While purity exists as fable.
Despair of winter’s intolerant rule,
Holding court the whole damn semester,
Despair of winter, it makes spring a fool,
And summer it considers a jester.
For less than the cost of a night on the tiles,
To the seven hills of old Rome you can fly,
Speed off in an Alfa for miles and miles.
Is the price of all this freedom too high?
When you’ve caught the last fish, felled the last tree,
Damned the last watercourse, drained the last fen,
Drunk the last drop, ransacked the treasury,
What value will your currency have then?
Part III – The Triumph
Watch the high Atacama desiccate,
Forsaken land, its parching sad and slow,
Watch the Christ-child make his appearance late,
Watch as dormant seeds in the desert grow.
Sense the growling of the shifting ice floes
The whooshing of brine lapping ‘gainst their walls,
Sense the white bear out there wrapped in the snows,
Sense that even this far north nature calls.
Fighting the deep south ninety-degrees night
Emperor Dads close rank in a corkscrew,
Fighting the elements, standing upright,
Long enough that his chick gets his fish stew.
Forgive us our frailties and our failing,
Even Genghis himself was scared of hounds,
Forgive us our sobs and bitter wailing,
Nothing lies still under burial mounds.
Hear mechanised mashing of wood pulp,
Hear bear claw grating on the tree bark,
Hear even the heartless man humbly gulp,
When he hears the sweet song of the skylark.
Brush those cobwebs from the corner,
Sterilise the four walls you call home,
But master weaver is no mourner,
The graveyard shift he labours alone.
Tuareg armadas sail the sands of Mali,
To the ends of the earth and old Timbuktu,
Meanwhile Bedouins in the Rub’ Al-Khali
Break the monotony as they pass through.
Here’s to Cortès, Pizarro, cassocked priest,
Centaurs, sacerdotes, on the trail of gold,
Here’s to white conquest and la noche triste,
Here’s to fortune favouring the bold.
Shiver at the thought of the way we were,
Frost fairs on the Thames in the age of Pope,
Shivering through a little ice age, there
Out of seven ill years came renewed hope.
Ephemeral wildflowers of the Outback
Bide a while until drops awaken them,
Tender forest shoots fight for the light they lack,
By catching photons with their hoisted stem.
You’ll build your great empire like others did,
First it was the trees, then the great lizards,
Then you’ll overreach and nature will rid
You of your numbers with drought and blizzards.
The ice will advance, the ice will retreat,
Into rivers of crystal it will flow,
Earth will be recast under many feet
Of liquid rock poured from fires below.
And Life will go on, new powers will rise,
And fall, expand and collapse like a lung,
Man will still squabble in tribes for the prize,
Which will lie out of reach in worlds far flung.