Thursday, February 6, 2020

sunday swaggers: climate action terza rima

what I deserved after finishing this challenge

This month our CP Catherine Flynn, dabbling in a little Dante, challenged us to write a terza rima.  "Coolcoolcool," we said. "No problem."  HA.

The terza rima, explained by Edward Hirsch:

"A verse form of interlocking three-line stanzas rhyming aba, bcb, cdc, etc. The terza rima form was invented by Dante Alighieri for the Commedia….The effect of this chain-rhyme is both open-ended and conclusive, like moving through a series of interpenetrating rooms or going down a set of winding stairs: you are always traveling forward while looking back."

You know how every day you try to do something different than you used to, in an effort to lighten your footprint on the planet, if not actually halt climate change?  And you know how every day you realize that you FORGOT and did it the old, heedless, "our resources are unlimited" way?  The "boy, these convenient plastic ziplock bags are genius" way? The "crap, I forgot to ride my electric bike to work" way?

If you're like me, you're trying to travel forward while always falling back down the winding stairs, looking back at how we got to an average January temperature 3* hotter than it should be. So here I am, a modern troubadour, singing a song of two steps forward, one frustrating step back.


Each day we hum a tiny tune of change,

a little hymn of too much rain and flame,
an unharmonic melody of strange

new storms and melting. Things just aren’t the same

as when they told us we had earned this gain.
“The spoils of progress” is our truest claim.

Our glad old song of triumph trails and wanes.

We ask ourselves what kind of war to wage
against the way we blithely drain and stain

our land, our air, our ocean. Turn the page:
lift up a chant to keep us pitched and brave.
Today we tilt at prudent, sane and sage.

It’s inconvenient but we try.   We cave

so easily! Each day it’s hard to gauge
if beating on this different drum can save

us, set a syncopation full of rage.
Let’s take the blame for digging our own grave.
Time now to chorus: can we act our age?

©Heidi Mordhorst 2020

I don't know--CAN we act in the way that our post-consumer age demands? Some days feel so daunting, like the bad guys are definitely winning, and then something buoys me up: for example,  Wednesday I participated in a training with the Elders Climate Action/ Environmental Voter Project.

I watched the trainer use a computer app to text 50 registered NH environmental voters in under 3 minutes, encouraging them to pledge to vote in the Primary Election.  He got a dozen responses right away and then spent about 4-5 minutes replying: tagging them as "voting," "wrong number" or "opt out."  It was beautifully efficient and I can't wait to play a role in getting voters--really ANY voters--thinking about which candidates have a plan for reversing global warming.  If you want to check it out, go here--and you don't have to be an "Elder"!

Don't forget to check out the rest of the Sunday Swaggers' efforts:

The Poetry Friday roundup is at Writing the World for Kids with Laura Purdie Salas--march on over to the beat of your different drum and make a difference!


  1. I am still in awe of your terza rima that packs such a wonderful meaning. Thanks for the reminder to take a step forward and vote for those who will make climate a priority. In our state it could mean our lives and livelihood and yet, all the oil barons are standing in the way. They can't see pass money in their pockets. Don't get me started. Ugh!

  2. Dear Heidi, you are brilliant. That is all. xo

  3. Gorgeous, Heidi. Now that I've read everyone else's, I am impressed with all of your persistence, possibly all grinning with accomplishment in the writing! Now if only we can "set a syncopation full of rage." I spent enough time with grandparents to know how it "was" long ago & then the excitement of "zipping" bags, that new, new wonder called plastic. We celebrated ignorence. I have made changes but it seems as if often enough I do trip & there is something I didn't wish to do. Love your poem!

  4. You do indeed deserve that bottle of wine! Heidi, I am in awe of this poem. Your lines and rhymes and message pack a powerful punch, and you make it look effortless! And thank you for always working to "keep us pitched and brave."

  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your constant reminders and encouragement to do what we can. I can so relate to your terza rima (brilliantly pulled off, too) of two steps forward and 1 step back.

  6. I second Irene's assertion that you are brilliant. You will now always be my go to iambic pentameter guru! XO

  7. "The spoils of progress" is so sadly accurate. I love your terza rima!

  8. Wow. Flawless, Heidi! You make it look so easy. And thank you for everything you do to help lead the way toward a better future for our children.

  9. Wow, Heidi! This really is fabulous. I love the "syncopation of rage" and how you continue to model how to step up and keep trying to do what's necessary. You are a mentor on multiple fronts!

  10. Another wow for the poem and a bonus wow for your activism. You inspire me!

  11. Home run with this one, Heidi! What a challenging form. But you chose a subject you are so passionate about. That had to have made it a tad easier, yes -- Christie @

  12. I've loved reading all these Terza Rimas--and yours is so inspiring. Yep, change is not easy. Yep, change is imperative.

  13. A masterful blend of message and meter. My heart breaks with the amount of throwaway packaging on food items. This convenient society is so inconvenient, when you're trying to find viable ways to reuse and reduce waste. (We put a lot of our containers to use - but there are only so many ways you can do that! I would just love to take them back and fill them to go again! A bit like the co-ops from my Grandad's time. Why can't we do that?!)


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!