Why this?

The occasional poem of my own and a generous helping of work by others that I find inspiring. Site is named for a beloved book by one of my favorite writers, Italo Calvino, whose fanciful work lights--and delights--my soul.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Letter to James Hansen from Boulogne

Somewhere near here there's something
called Stalin's Furnace--a friend mentioned it
but I forgot what he meant. I closed the shutters
this morning, just as the pigeons stopped cooing
& I said are those mourning doves, & A. said,
No, they're pigeons. She was so sad
to find the peaches hairy with mold
& when she left for work I cut chunks of green
spores from the flesh. Remember
watching the snow in your end of Manhattan?
I wanted every roof in the city a field
of crocus or poppy, & you, humoring me,
took out maps of heat signatures--deep red
for heat islands, the parks cool green--
to imagine the meadowed roofs from orbit.
Man, if I could have brought my twelve-year-old
self to that meeting. NASA. No shit.
You had this blue bowl of bamboo shoots,
the kind you buy on Canal Street, three
for a dollar, & I thought, Isn't it
a thing, that we can see ourselves from space?
It isn't though, is it?--no one seems
to care. How close did that comet come
yesterday, Jim? Close as the damn moon,
& we didn't feel a thing. I liked when you said
we're making the Earth a different planet. And no one
gives a fuck. Outside, someone's dropped
a load of pipes on the concrete. I need a shower
& I've been trying to translate a book of bird
poems by a scientist in Toulouse.
They launch rockets there, don't they? Somehow
we manage to note the northern shift of Sprague's
pipit, McCown's longspur with everything else
going on. Would their extinction make
such a difference? Being even this
mindful of their absence in west Texas,
where Elizabeth watches controlled burns
cook baby rabbits alive, make it so?
This morning our astronauts wait
to be lifted free of the earth, the earth
beneath them beginning to shudder. We haven't been
as far as the moon since, what, Carter?
Ford? I don't feel like trying to translate
une conscience ascendante to mean what it does,
so I watch them jack up the sidewalk.
I can feel the day warming & listen
to Komunyakaa's poem where he can't tell
whether the waft of jasmine comes
from a valley in in Asia or a woman's body brushing
against him on the street. I like that
terror: forgetting the radiant tar, acres
of pavement, the share of rain the maples
give back to the air. It's the fourth of July
& I ate slices of peach with yogurt & thought
about the birds in marshes by Canaveral,
how if they suddenly disappeared I couldn't begin
to tell you how anything at all had changed.

--Colin Cheney

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