From climate change to biodiversity loss to plastic pollution, the next generation faces daunting environmental challenges. But these obstacles also serve as inspiration for Maine’s young poets, who use them to share messages of hope for a clean and healthy future.
On April 22, 2021, the Natural Resources Council of Maine and The Telling Room hosted a special Earth Day celebration with young Maine poets reading their original work inspired by Maine’s environment. Maine Governor Janet Mills kicked off the event by sharing her Earth Day reflections and a poem that inspires her. And the program was moderated by Samaa Abdurraqib, a Circle of Advisors member of the Indigo Arts Alliance.
By Isabelle Petrozzini
Animals are lost
The hunter crouches in damp leaves
they wait for an animal to approach
the noise shatters the woods
the animal collapses to the floor
Trees are lost
the chainsaw starts
it strains to cut the towering tree
Finally the chainsaw buzzes to the other side
the lofty tree descends to the forest floor
An iceberg is lost
The iceberg crashes down to the ocean
a wave builds up
it bursts into the other glaciers
they groan and tip
chunks and pieces fall down from the neighboring icebergs
Time is lost
Time is running out
everything might be irreversible
Humans are found
every five seconds a new human is born
More of everything is needed
Houses are found
a load of lumber has just arrived to the human’s soon-to-be doorstep
they build their new “very important” house
A corporation is found
The human drafts their idea of the perfect corporation
it will be a perfect fossil fuel dispenser
Carbon is found
Every year tons of carbon is discharged into the air
there might not be a way to stop it
Love is found, but sometimes lost
It floats away, leaving your mind, but
If you hope
If you care
If you love
It surrounds you
Making you feel warm, calm, happy
Hope can be lost, but is always found
Hope is always with you
It’s deep down there when you can’t find it
Icy Waters: A Story Drafted From Freezing Toes
By Makili Matty
When the waves first lap at your feet
When you could almost just step back
But for some reason
You couldn’t find the will
It has something that holds your gaze
The way it feels no limit
The way it flows in and out
With no hesitations
Even when the cold is unbearable
It still supports life
Even when it may seem to never calm
It still allows the surest of boats to float on
The ocean seems endless
A vast expanse of of blues and grays
Calling me forth with the lulling of its waves
Lapping at my feet.
Above Above Above
Below Below Below
By Remick Matty
The sun with its heat
The sky forever broken
The magic of the wind
Above above above
The rippling water
The endless expanse
The diving fish
below below below
The lake going from shore to shore, endless in its glory
And sitting there as you take it all in
You find how small you really are
A fish in the ocean a squirrel in a forest you’re tiny compared to the world
The sun off the water
You look to the sky
The wind in your hair
above above above
The moving flowing water
Stretching forever forward
The fish underneath me
below below below
There’s no one else to solve it
By Ada Milhauser
You sit down here and sip from cups you know were made to be thrown out.
Abundance of these plastic things are tearing the world apart.
You drive in cars, emissions in the atmosphere, we cough and burn.
The energy from coal and such can be replaced, keep this in mind.
These fossil fuels, while less before, are rising and we must refrain.
The pandemic, we stay inside, the air quality takes a break.
Your children here, dependent on the future you prepare for them.
With pesticides and chemicals, their IQs sinking down
Loss of all your memories, this issue is much worse than you thought.
But still, we see the news and think,
“There’s someone else to solve it.”
What Good Is a Hammer?
by Samaa Abdurraqib, PhD
We got so still in the woods together that afternoon, crossing the soggy plank that divided the
murky, marshy water.
I’d just delighted you with my
quick scan-spotting of that snake
that slithered up from the water and into the moss.
You already thought I was magic. Let me show you more.
You, sentimental collector and cataloguer of moments. I am learning.
This is what you hold your breath for. Let me show you more.
I hear it first because I am always ready.
I rush to you, my sharp, whispered “listen!”
pushing you into silence and stillness.
There it is. Back in the trees, deep to the right. There.
What is a woodpecker, but a rapid staccato drumbeat, begging your heart to keep pace? I think as we
stand. My hands on your chest on your heartbeat.
My ear on your back on your heartbeat.
Now you hear it, too.
And everything about you becomes still and alert. The way I like it.
We are together on this plank, possibility of a new moment somewhere off there,
if we are lucky.
Yes, we will be lucky – we have been thus far in our own pasts and here, in this present
so we set off, heads cocked, together, but not.
It should be right there,
but it’s not.
I am teaching you about their wily-ness.
About how they throw their voices and their sounds. How they rise above the congruent melodies and
then drop below just as you approach.
But what good is a hammer if it isn’t precise?
So we pause at a bend, and then turn left because we will be lucky.
Coming to a certain tangle of half-dead leaning trees, we stop.
It’s right above us now.
But also behind us. And through us.
Filling up our bodies.
You see her first. She is right in front of us.
I will hold the awe-joy-surprise of your voice in my mind until
I can’t anymore.
You have seen something for the first time. I know that feeling. It takes me a moment, but then –
now – I am with you.
She is perfect.
Working so hard on this dead tree, stripped of bark, thin smooth tan.
She is symmetry in black and white.
White dots on her collapsed wings so close together they’re like bars streaked across wings folded
across a patch of white I know is there on her back.
Beak short, head striped.
I know that you are wondering: how can it be?
How can a thing so small compel us forward from 60 yards away?
But what good is a drumbeat if it doesn’t compel?
She flies off, breaking the spell, and you look at me for a beat, and I
look away as we both chuckle awkwardly. What else is there to say now?
As we tumble out of the woods into the small parking lot, you proudly tell a passerby that we’ve
just gone birding(!). I smile –
You haven’t seen a thing yet.
Let me show you.
Download all poems (PDF)