Conversations in art about ecological collapse and our place in the changing world

Conversation 27

RED SEA
Margaret Sweatman

*
Prologue

Neatly park the car beside the sea.
Listen to the waves.   What do they say?

Criminal.    Criminal.

*

1.
What was Given

Watch the white sea birds
Rising, rising, for miles.
White sea birds
Spiral higher, soaring towards
Spindles of heat.
You will only see them
When the sun strikes their white wings
And they shine till they’re far, far from sight.

White sea birds soaring off sea surf
And the swan is white, white as the seagull,
Snow geese, white falcon and pelican;
The surf glistens in the sun.
The white tailed kite and the clouds are white
Till they gather pitch, black and toxic
And the rains fall and the marshes
Are drowned and it smells of death
Down in the river cane.

While the earth bleeds
And our lives become wind,
Never mind, never mind;
The singers are no longer silent,
The prophets are no longer blind. 

 

*

2.
The Bride’s Song

Sweet as honeysuckle, the bride
Lifts her face to her chosen one.
In the shadows of a simple shed
Sheltered from the strange summer sun,
Ferny shade, a rusted spade,
By the blue watering pail, she kisses him.
The wedding guests buzz like bees to bellflower,
Lady slipper; she can barely breathe
So taken is she. 

What will morning bring
But more delight?   Far,
Far from here, a falling star.
Blissful, the gifts rustle in tissue.
Who would deny her beauty?
Truly she will thrive forever. White as bone
Ash, her porcelain skin.

 

*

3.
Children, Playing

The children play
In a hot, hot night under leafy lights.
They’ve never been so old, or bold,
They’ve never so daring and so wise.

So must they be.
The world and all
Is tossed to them,
A shattered ball. 

They howl and chase, wild horses on the street.
Now their mothers call them home,
Cassandra!  Theseus!  Come to bed! 

Go to sleep, children, sleep, so the ancients may find rest
Riding on the back of your dreams.  Take us out to sea.

And the young boy shouting, “Yes!” 

 

*

4.
Song for a Father

Every time I open my mind to
Reveal the yellow roots of our unmaking, I hear

Glass shatter, collisions of steel; star-scrapers
Topple and crash and dust rises in black blooms of smoke
And all the wisdom burns, it burns, wisdom burns.    

Now you wear a crown of nothing.
Hero of nothing, zero becomes you.

What is this wilderness of mirrors?
We have been careless, we have been rapacious.
Now we are a wilderness. 

Wind strips leaves from the trees, wheat from the fields.
Sand, seduced from the shore, out to sea
Returns.  But 

I am not beholden
To you.
I let you go.  I keep
Nothing
Close.

 

*

5.
Fifth Act

An eye-dropper, a drop of red,
Then the blood from Earth is bled.
Earth thou art slain.

No medicine in the world can do thee good;
In thee there is not a summer, not a harvest left to live.
It is the King, the King’s to blame. 

It is the poison’d cup; it’s too late.
Murdered, murder turns upon itself;
She bleeds, she bleeds, blood in her tears.

Cover your children’s eyes or they’ll seek revenge
For the world has been taken away from them.

Obedient subjects, busy with small gain.
Earth, Earth thou art slain.
It is the King, the King’s to blame. 

 

*
Epilogue

Stones at the shore
Glisten.
Clear water.  Ice!
Black birds flitter in the marsh,
Black bird song.
Here is the hot sun,
Here is the coolest shade.
Sleep, sleep, and dream.
A summer rain sweeps across the lake,
Shhhhhh, shhhhhh, blue curtains of rain
Sweeping, the distance.
Will there be thunder?
The smell of sky.

I have broken the promise I made in the garden.
I am only myself.
Restless, prison.
Man and woman.
Green, green garden,
Remember me.

heather-lane-seamarks-the-scales-project

SEAMARKS
Heather Lane

Oil on canvas
60 x 120 x 5.5 cm