“Ecosystems are fragile,”
Croons the corporate giving page gently.
“The delicate balance,”
Bleat the smiling, suited lions.
Nature? She was not always so delicate.
In tales you’ve glimpsed her with the gloves off.
Like the hyenas that separated the left buttock
From the little white girl lost in the brush in Africa after dark.
That insane, midnight dog-giggle of a circling pack, biting cleanly;
I bet that system didn’t feel so fragile.
You’ve seen her in the muddied floodwaters,
Surging with the elated viciousness of a lover.
As you lick your wounds, she would rest you
Hidden in her vast dark underbelly
Until each day begins again.
Her topaz stare surveying you, indifferent,
They’ve forgotten what she looks like,
Beyond the firelight of their forges.
They’ve stopped looking her in the eye.
They have made their cursory statements,
Offered paltry charity as though to an overlooked child.
She will eat through their profit margins and viscera
In the days when we remember why we used to be afraid.
Among other things, this strong, scary poem by Vera Leopold is an amazing example of the cliche-and-critique structure, subjecting the opening lines’ platitudes about nature to extreme poetic scrutiny.
Vera has a B.A. in English from Illinois Wesleyan University and an M.A. in environmental studies from the University of Illinois at Springfield. She is Grants Manager/Development Associate for The Wetlands Initiative, based in Chicago.
My thanks to Vera for permission to publish her work.