Wednesday, April 22, 2020

npm2020: earth day 22/23 "Smaller Than I Thought" & "Silver Lining Moment"

day is every day
[I'm recycling this Earth Day post from Wednesday, in the spirit of reusing our resources wisely!]

In 2009 I was teaching in what I named "The Afternoon Room," a windowless former broadcasting studio where I had been hired to work .3 of a full-time position teaching math, science and social studies to 2nd-graders, all in 90 minutes. For those 2nd-graders I planned an Earth Day Party, bought tiny mini-cupcakes iced with blue, green and white, and wrote this poem.

Smaller Than I Thought

Here at the Earth Day Party in the park
they’re cutting the Earth Day Cake:
rich chocolate to stand for the soil,
swirls of green and blue frosting
to represent land and water.
The white icing at the Poles
is melting under the
unseasonably hot April sun.

The cake is smaller than I thought.
The pieces are small, too.

There’s no point in asking for seconds.
In fact, there isn’t enough to go around.
Some of us will have to share
one slice of Earth Day Cake between us.
I don’t know the kid who comes
to sit beside me on the lawn.
“Let’s take tiny nibbles to make it
last longer,” she suggests.  I nod,

and we gingerly dig our two forks
into one small slice of the blue Pacific.

©Heidi Mordhorst 2009

It's a gentle little poem in which you can assume that the Earth Day cake was served on "disposable" plates and eaten with "disposable" forks, just like the mini-cupcakes in The Afternoon Room.  Those poem party organizers, those cake-eating kids in the poem were just like me in 2009, understanding the Inconvenient Truth that Earth was WAY smaller than I had grown up thinking it was, that there hadn't been "enough to go around" for a long time--but not what the implications were for my own daily life.

I love this poem I wrote more than a decade ago.  I'm still proud of it.  BUT IT LACKS URGENCY.  The very generation of kids it was written for, kids who are now 19 and 20, who are the age of my own children--they have been watching their adults at the charming Earth Day Party in the park and wondering what the hell we are doing sitting on the lawn eating cake when the world is on fire.

planet earth is blue and there's something we can do

And now I revisit my post from Friday, March 13, the day I sent my students home to quarantine--not from catastrophic climate change, but from catastrophic pandemic virus.  Here's what I wrote on that day.                                                                                                     
"...the members of our  human community once again have a challenge before us: 

we are now entering a period during which daily life as we know it cannot be sustained.  The inconvenience, the disappointment, the sorrow are monumental.  People are feverish with virus and anxiety, and the contagion can barely be contained. Our fear for our own lives and those of our neighbors has spurred us into immediate and collective action, with or without the wise or courageous leadership of our elected officials.

This, friends, is the response the young people have been looking for in the face of catastrophic climate change.  The planet is feverish with emissions and wild weather, and the reckless squandering of resources has not been contained.  Our fear for our own lives and those of our neighbors has not spurred us into immediate and collective action, despite the wise and courageous leadership of our youth, our scientists and our public policy experts.

But now that can change.  
Now we see that what must be done, can be done
if we have enough fear.  The governor of a state can go on TV and simply declare that 
you may not keep dumping your food waste into the same bin as your trash, starting 
A school system can spend a short amount of time and, to the best of its ability, redirect its resources and transform operations to make school transportation greener, starting
Churches, nonprofits and individual families can cooperate to reverse global warming
if we accept that "business as usual" is no longer sustainable.

Friends, be careful out there. Be wise and courageous IN there. And when we have moved through this challenge, don't forget that we proved we can move through the next infinitely bigger challenge."

I included the beginnings of a poem that I'm finishing today, with an urgent reminder that when the pandemic of coronavirus passes, we remember what we learned can be done.

Silver Lining Moment

This is the everlasting straw
that breaks the camel's back,
the blue-green sea of frosting
rising at our shores.
This is the inconvenient truth
that leaves the party in the park
to knock on every door.

No mud, no lotus.  
No dark of night, no day.

We in the heartland with our Walmart plastic,
we in the cities with our daily Amazon deliveries,
this is where we see that us and them, 
that now and next, are the same. 

This is where we see
that practically every,
that practically, every
thing we use and do must change. 
No digging gingerly with "disposable" forks.

This is the gloves-on, masks-on, frontline dirty work
of growing our own, of waiting for yeast,
of acting as though we’re sick even without the proof of a test,
of building the makeshift ventilator that allows the Earth to breathe
long enough to recover. Imagine.

No threat of death, no action.
Action tomorrow. Today. Now.

draft ©Heidi Mordhorst 2020

Here's a "freestanding" poetry video that includes both these poems, part of my National Poetry Month project.  Enjoy; maybe share, and as all the YouTubers say, "Don't forget to LIKE and SUBSCRIBE!"

Our hostess with the most interesting bird mnemonics--not to mention today's Progressive Poem lines--is Christie at Wondering and Wandering.  While you're poeting, you could also join the 3-day Earth Week livestream to learn more and show support for environmentally-friendly candidates and policies.


  1. Heidi, I still love that first poem so much. The second poem ... just makes me sad. I needed it though, to give me some fight.

  2. Both poems are quite powerful, Heidi! I like the recycled phrase "digging gingerly with forks" - disposal or otherwise. Action now - yes, please! :)

  3. I especially like "of acting as though we’re sick even without the proof of a test,
    of building the makeshift ventilator that allows the Earth to breathe
    long enough to recover.


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