7/8/07

Gaiacide

Beer and music lovers at the Al Gore-organized Live Earth concerts were asked to sign a pledge to "take personal action to help solve the climate crises by reducing my own CO2 pollution as much as I can and offsetting the rest to become 'carbon neutral'." Al Gore himself is a world-class emitter, however, with a monthly electricity bill of $1,359 to service his 20-room, 8-bathroom mansion, 20 times the American household average. (My bill for last month was $21.71, to service my rented two-room, walk-up mansionette.) John Travolta, another "environmental activist," happens to own five jets, contrailing 30,000 miles a year. It's apparently too hard for most of us to wean ourselves from whatever comfort or toys we could get our paws on. Thus, as Joe Bageant wrote in a recent essay, "Homo sapiens hath shat, frolicked, killed and exceeded their MasterCard limits upon the earth [...] All the green energy sources and eating right and voting right cannot fix what has been irretrievably ruined, but only make life amid the ruination slightly more bearable. Species gluttony is nearly over and we've eaten the earth and pissed upon its bones. Not because we are cruel by nature (though a case might be made for stupidity) but because the existence of consciousness necessarily implies each of us as its individual center, the individual point of all experience and thus all knowing." Poets are also implicated in this gaiacide, and not only because of our jetting back and forth to readings, conferences and various cool places, just for the hell of it, since we're still part of the system, after all, but because of our often ready embrace of technology and "progress." Hindsight is handier than a low blow, of course, but how quaint will a poem like Neruda's "Ode to the Sea" be, when there's no more sea?


Ode to the Sea

Here on the island
the sea
and so much sea
overflowing,
relentless,
it says yes, then no,
then no, no, no,
then yes, in blue,
in foam, with gallops,
it says no, again no.
It cannot stay still,
my name is sea, it repeats
while slamming against rocks
but unable to convince rocks,
then
with seven green tongues
of seven green dogs,
of seven green tigers,
of seven green seas,
it smothers rocks, kisses rocks,
drenches rocks
and slamming its chest,
repeats its name.
O sea, you declare yourself,
O comrade ocean,
don’t waste time and water,
don’t beat yourself up,
help us,
we are lowly
fishermen,
men of the shore,
we’re cold and hungry
and you’re the enemy,
don’t slam so hard,
don’t scream like that,
open your green trunk
and give all of us
on our hands
your silver gifts:
fish every day.

Here in each house,
we all crave it
whether it’s of silver,
crystal or moonlight,
spawn for the poor
kitchens on earth.
Don’t hoard it,
you miser,
coldly rushing like
wet lightning
beneath your waves.
Come, now,
open yourself
and leave it
near our hands,
help us, ocean,
deep green father,
end one day
our earthly poverty.
Let us
harvest your lives’
endless plantation,
your wheat and eggs,
your oxes, your metals,
the wet splendor
and submerged fruits.

Father sea, we know already
what you are called, all
the seagulls circulate
your name on the beaches:
now, behave yourself,
don’t shake you mane,
don’t threaten anyone,
don’t smash against the sky
your beautiful teeth,
ignore for a moment
your glorious history,
give to every man,
to every
woman and to every child,
a fish large or small
every day.
Go out to every street
in the world
and distribute fish
and then
scream,
scream
so all the working poor
could hear you,
so they could say,
sticking their heads
into the mine:
“Here comes the old man sea
to distribute fish.”
And they’ll go back down
into the darkness,
smiling, and on the streets
and in the forests,
men and the earth
will smile
an oceanic smile.
But
if you don’t want it,
if you don’t care for it,
then wait,
wait for us,
we must worry, first
we must try to solve
and straighten out
human affairs,
the biggest problems first,
then all the others,
and then
we’ll enter you,
we’ll chop the waves
with a knife made of fire,
on an electric horse
leaping over foam,
singing
we’ll sink
until we touch the bottom
of your guts,
an atomic thread
will guard your shank,
we’ll plant
in your deep garden
trees
of cement and steel,
we’ll tie
your hands and feet,
on your skin man will walk,
spitting,
yanking in bunches,
building armatures,
mounting and taming you
to dominate your spirit.
All this will occur
when us men
have straightened out
our problem,
the big,
the big problem.
We’ll slowly
solve everything:
we’ll force you, sea,
we’ll force you, earth
perform miracles,
because in our very selves,
in the struggle,
is fish, is bread,
is the miracle.


(1954)
translated from the Spanish by Linh Dinh

5 comments:

Samuel Vriezen said...

Nice work, Linh!

The more urgent problem is not the sea going, I think, but the fish. We're running out of those right now. The island will then be up next.

Linh Dinh said...

Hi Samuel,

Thanks! What I mean is there won't be the sea as it's supposed to be, a healthy, living organism. I was also echoing the Book of Revelation--holy roller me!--with its vision of the Apocalypse:

[...] and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up [...] a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood [...]and the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed [...] (Rev 8)

for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. (Rev 21)


Linh

Murat said...

Samuel,Linh,

Consciousness (the soul.the fish) is temporary. The rest will go on for ever.

The fisherman is temporary. The rest will go on forever.

The fish market is temporary. The rest will go on forever.

Ciao,

Murat

p.s. It's nice to hear from you all after a hiatus.

Murat said...

Samuel,Linh,

Consciousness (the soul.the fish) is temporary. The rest will go on for ever.

The fisherman is temporary. The rest will go on forever.

The fish market is temporary. The rest will go on forever.

Ciao,

Murat

p.s. It's nice to hear from you all after a hiatus.

Linh Dinh said...

Check out this excellent, just-published article by Mike Davis on related issues:

http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/07/10/2427