A Poetry Showcase from Nancy Avery Dafoe

from pixabay

Chasing Light

Chasing light,
we ran through tall grasses—
my brothers and I wrapped our fingers 
around fireflies sending signals in the night. 

Before opening our small fists 
and releasing those living lanterns, 
we imagined life as magic constellations 
mirrored in the bones of our wrists 

like Nemerov suggested in his poem Writing,
our lives stretched out before us infinite 
because we were not yet able to imagine death 
of ourselves or others in a flash of lightning.

Take the Beaver

Take the beaver, for example,
that industrious creature slowing rivers, 
creating wetlands absorbing toxins; 
beavers building dams and lodges
for their kits nestled in comfort, 
beaver lodges with eating chambers 
and underwater exits and entrances;
beavers with architecture so intricate 
yet their lives not worth their pelts,
so, man took the beaver and took 
the beaver until that animal
was nearly eradicated nationwide
and replaced by man’s genius 
in carving up bogs, filling swamps 
with toxic landfills leaching 
into water supplies.

Man’s labors speeding up 
rivers for hydroelectricity,
destroying those carbon sinks
once the domain of the beaver
now in industrial development, 
as monstrous amounts of carbon 
are emitted, choking life 
out of the planet, but at least 
we have fewer beavers 
to deal with and those reminders 
of a simpler time in the face 
of our complex systems 
of waste and ruin. 

Earth Awakens

In that moment of insight—
silent movement found in descending light—
latecomer red clouds—
bloodred streaks in the sky—suggesting another time 
even another locus from this far field isolation
with fading tall grasses bent and blurring 
figures first then thoughts
into other dark.

That near place— 
almost unreachable now—
that once familiar time culled then held close
from hushed memory in which distinction is blurred:
the Earth awakens, our defensive projection,
to destruction—lands and waters 
poisoned. Asking of us, 
to what ends?

It's Getting Hotter

It’s getting hotter across the planet,
and grasses have turned sizzling brown
as if to please a blistering sun with their burning. 

While an ominous shadow crosses the plains 
without releasing its rains—that bounty 
saved for a part of the country
where rains are still plentiful
and creeks and rivers swell until 
overflowing, flooding everything 
downstream, taking all that is left of good soil—
another desert is forming.

Another people in forced migration
on a widening path under cover of night 
when it is still cool enough to walk, 
with their few belongings on their backs, 
across now barren lands
toward some distant hope, 
toward imagined plenty, they walk 
knowing even the stars would reduce 
all to ash before they got close. 

This planet is getting hotter,
and all of mankind is moving
toward conflict and desolation:

Nemesis exacting her revenge 
for the hubris of man foolish enough
to help destroy his only habitable home.

Examining My Carbon Footprint

Examining the rough soles of my feet,
many years into wandering,
I consider my high arch, the ball of my foot
that juts out too far, my narrow heel lined 
with callouses, and I think of being on my feet
all day when I was teaching before remembering
to ask, just what is my carbon footprint?
That CO2 emission I personally 
am responsible for, endangering
the planet and every life form.

I think about waste and chaos,
chaos and waste as the world plays itself out.
I think about politicization and misinformation
told by knowing men as they drilled and lied.
I think about trying to reduce or just contain
our wastes or use of electricity, driving
my car to see my grandchildren. 

There are enumerated steps to follow 
in reducing our dangerously high CO2 
emissions, but they are difficult for the individual 
to believe that one of us can make any difference
when a single flight uses 36,000 gallons of oil.

Eat less meat, plant a garden, drive less,
waste less—but I’m aware our entire way 
of life is based upon manufactured waste 
as prime ingredient in profit directive.

Changing how we live so hard when
nearly half the population is still 
wrapped and insulated in conspiracies and lies, 
they will never consider science or knowledge 
of real value. And I think of the generations’
long deceptions by big oil and gas companies—
looking at you, Exxon Mobil, BP, Sinopec, 
and Saudi Aramco whose CEOs have duped us all—
with CO2 footprints large enough to fill continents.

When they line up the species to examine 
our carbon footprints, none compare to man’s
and his legacy of destruction, wars and waste, 
what we leave in our wide stance 
our stature small but out CO2 footprints those
of monstrous giants stomping across the planet. 

But that vision is so dark as to cause giving up 
or giving in, so I will do neither and reduce 
where I can, when I can and encourage others, 
before going to the garden to listen 
for sparrows and the whistle of the osprey.

Thinking About Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton
first published in Nancy's collection Innermost Sea, by Finishing Line Press, 2018

About how they never got over pain,
considering the ways a child’s loss
worked itself up 33 bones—
these vertebrae that form spine
—where frustration and loss lodged
in cells of dorsal root ganglia,
on route to the brain
where at will, Plath and Sexton
could return to seasons of girls
catching fire,
transmitting torment into
perfect articulation.
No suicide girls, these women
who chose immolation—
even though choice implies preference
when it is no more than opportunity
at slivered edge. These poets
let us hear the voice beneath the din,
those sounds we scarcely recognize,
overlapping as they are 
by slapping sounds on water.
How to describe it exactly—
fluctuating quivers of emotion
and intellectual thought
moving emptiness, filling
void with desolation as we try
to find our way by echolocation,
listening, separating out cymbals
because, after all, too often 
what we hear is just
air beating on inner ear,
asking to be let in.

Bio: Author/poet/educator Nancy Avery Dafoe writes in multiple genres and has thirteen books, including three poetry collections, through independent publishers. Her poetry won the William Faulkner/Wisdom award in 2016, and her fiction won the short story award from New Century Writers. A member of the CNY Branch of the National League of American Pen Women, she is currently serving as second vice president of that organization.