Two Poems

by James Grabill Issue: Fall 2018 Special Issue on Justice

In the Morning

Nothing lives that hasn’t grown
or yielded to effects of time
or depended on primary health
of the surroundings, on balance
in the interlinked animals and plants,
the visible and microscopic symbiosis,
where nothing grows that isn’t cells,
that doesn’t change or fall
within the laws of matter,
as the sun creates what has legs,
what burns away, or swims in a drop
of water, or sings from a branch
in the morning, as the sun makes mind
possible where light breaks open
into being and nothing lives
that hasn’t changed or been changing
while this galaxy alone saucers
with hundreds of billions of suns,
given what we can see from here
where nothing lives outside being
and it’s easier not to think
about reports of a sixth extinction
than to imagine runaway climate
disruption mostly caused by us
or to realize that this life must end.



Return Bees to Plants on the Planet

Bring back the symbiotic thrill
from when power-clawing life
off of the offshore seafloor
was outlawed by common sense.
Oil cardinal elevators of identity
in this age sitting on its aquifers.
Restore the greater undone
for the sake of the indivisible
pollinators and keep choosing
to begin once more unpolluting,
improvisatory with Grandma’s bins
of potatoes before light splits
into its future high-rise farms.
Let coal-fired histories be erased
by the high tide. Re-establish
refined aesthetic contemplation
as the top of the wheel returns
to the ground and water thunders
in the falls. As fluorescence deflects
downtown, blending into a blur
in the city, restore Teddy Roosevelt
to national forests in the middle
sound of the species. Return viable
composites, eyes filling in matter,
and a viable future to the present.
Return native gulches, illustrated
monastic first letters with a slam
of the screen door into its frame,
where day-to-day practice learns
to be energy’s bread. Return
the voice that speaks with lift
of small ribs of a barn owl.
Restore mineral shimmering
to the bearings of hosts
behind their black iron gates.

James Grabill

James Grabill’s recent work appears in Terrain: A Journal of the Built or Natural Environments, Caliban Online, Stand, Harvard Review, The Bitter Oleander, The Fredericksburg Literary and Arts Review, and others. His books include Poem Rising Out of the Earth (1994) and An Indigo Scent after the Rain (2003). He has also written environmental prose poems, Sea-Level Nerve: Book One (2014) and Book Two (2015), published by Wordcraft of Oregon. For many years, he taught writing and global issues relative to sustainability.