Poems for the Weary

Last night was the second meeting of the DC chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby. We're working on building the political will to pass climate legislation (in the form of a carbon tax). Everyone in the group is passionate about doing something, but I'm constantly aware that people have demanding pressures in their lives and don't want anyone (including myself) to feel burdened by their voluntary participation. I want the group to be a place of respite rather than additional source of stress. What keeps me coming back are the inspiring people I'm meeting and working with.

Although I studied literature in college, there is very little poetry in my life these days. The quest to find a job and develop some meaningful activism has given me tunnel vision. What poetry I do have comes from my friend Jim. This one he sent me, Everyday People by Albert Goldbarth, empathizes with those who carry weariness in the face of big problems (excerpt):

The oceans are dying. They require a hero,
or a generation of heroes. The oceans are curdling
in on themselves, and on their constituent lives,
they're rising here, and lowering there,
I swear I've heard them gasping. And my friends ... ?
Are brooding over who their kids are playing with
on the streets. Are coming home after a day where some
midlevel management weasel sucked
their souls out like a yolk from an egg—right through
a tiny puncture-hole in the dome of the skull. The cat
has worms. The price of gas is nearly what
their grandparents' wedding rings cost. The oceans

sorely need a paladin, but my friends are exhausted
disputing how many angels can trample the truth
from a twelve-dollar overcharge on a cell-phone bill.
Our privacy is disappearing, cameras sip it up
like thirsty beasts surrounding a shrinking pool of water, my friends
are worried, oh yes certainly they're worried, but also the tumor
and the marriage and the alcoholic uncle. The war
that's this war but is any war and all war is requesting
a little attention in the cause-part, maybe only
a little more in the effect-part, but my friends know
how impossible it is to attend to even a single other
person sufficiently, plus the dentist, plus the eye exam,
and can't they spend some time renewing their sense
of making beauty in this wreckage, Edie
her hummingbird feeders, Sean his libretto, Omar
his amazing organic noodles: something like Balenciaga

the haute couture designer whose life I'm reading compulsively
while the ice caps and the red tide and the polar bears,
Balenciaga for whom "the business of making beautiful things
absorbed him totally, and there was no room in his life
for anything else," he did a piece of sewing "every day
of his adult life: from the age of three," in 1913 (age eighteen)
"he was learning the women's-wear trade" as the guns
of the World War cleared their throats and aimed, and through
the world depression, "a fishnet cloak
of knotted white velvet, and swathes of parachute silk
to make pink-and-white flowers," and through
the Spanish Civil War, "regarded making dresses
as a vocation, like the priesthood, and an act of worship,"
through (he bargained with Franco) World War II,
chantilly, chenille, mohair, tulle,
"he took the sample of intractable material
into his sanctum and returned in only moments
with a superbly accomplished buttonhole: it
would have been a half-hour's labor for anyone else,"
a buttonhole while Israel was forged in 1948,
a buttonhole for Sputnik, yes a buttonhole,
a perfect—consummate—buttonhole, is this
a condemnation of my friends (and so myself)

or an exoneration? I truly don't know...