The river below us:
nitrogen, phosphorous, petrochemicals,
dioxin from the paper mills,
a rich buffet of metals digested
from the mines, and still we remain
oblivious to its symptoms
until a skull-and-crossbones sign warns
of the poisons that run the course
of its slim body, writhing like a patient
on a gurney, admitted for treatment;
warns too, of its offspring in the
waiting room: soft-shell crabs, oysters,
the striped bass, the silk fillet,
and the trout we want to bring home
to the sizzle of butter and garlic
and fresh herbs in the kitchen.
And suddenly we are left alone
to recover mere memory: the river
we had swung across on ropes
in the dungarees of childhood,
splashing in its shallow gut;
the river over which we fought and killed,
and for which we even died—
the river we damned.
Threatening our tenacity that summer
were the most turbulent vandals of weather.
We drifted, guarding our freedom,
and not thinking the errors we’ve made
could prove our fragility. But then
a gloss-over in pewter at Hatteras
by that discreet brush of fog preceded a languor
at the marina where boats were sponged up like milk
into the null and void. Out of the southeast,
out of a free will that went undisciplined
all day and night, the wind looted the coastline
with more than one accomplice,
stealing in quick swiping gusts the sheen
of a generation’s endeavors. The sea in its turmoil,
rode a fast shuttle back and forth
into an outbreak of foam, a sparkling seltzer
of sea water that kept striking somewhere onshore,
housebreaking and plundering. Terror lit up
the eye of the lighthouse that stood on the edge
of familiar warnings, listening—
ever so much in those desperate hours.
What does it mean to violate an appeal
for salvation; to surrender in exile
when at last the final scene plays out?
What will it mean to be left without bread,
without the reserve to take back, to take over—
given nothing but the astonishing ruins of a landscape
we merely have the means to stare at?
Copyright (C) 2013 by Joanne Monte. All rights, including electronic, reserved by author.
2 Eco-Poems by
Joanne Monte: RIVER and The hurricane
Joanne Monte of Bloomfield, NJ. won the 2012 Bordighera Poetry Prize for her book The Blue Light of Dawn. Her poems have been published in literary journals which include, Poet Lore, The Raintown Review, Ancient Paths Literary Review, Twilight Ending: A Literary Journal, Poet, and others. She was the recipient of several awards, most notably, The John David Johnson Memorial Poetry Award, The Writer's Digest Award and the New Millennium Writing Award for Poetry. About Joanne Monte's work, Paul Mariani, Distinguished Judge of the Bordighera Poetry Prize 2012, wrote: "Sometimes it’s one’s duty simply to call attention to the special beauty that’s there before us, but which, being preoccupied, we so often fail to see. Like noticing the morning sun rising like the 'golden timepiece' it is, where a fleetingmoment, caught in all its “fine-cut crystal”clarity, might be held and sippedlike 'sparkling champagne.' This is what Joanne Monte offers us, with such raresensitivity: a flower of great beauty amid the noise and clangor and violence that too often is our daily portion of dirt to eat. How often we have cried out in silence for 'a language/ we cannot speak,' for the grace of a single moment, immortal, held still in one shot, one frame.' And isn’t that frame the very image at the heart of Being which 'we hope to see more clearly,' the very thing which, for our own peace, we must salvage 'out of this rubble' of life? William Carlos Williams found this in the world about him, and now another New Jersey poet has found it for us as well. Read her. No, better, meditate on what she has to tell us in such exquisite and tender language. Her poems are like saxifrage, the healing flower that breaks the very rock of indifference strewn each morning about us. " Monte is Assistant Editor of Eco-Poetry.org/ and has read her eco-poems at Poets House in New York City.