Earth Day poems: “I’ve wanted to speak to the world for sometime now about you.”

ZP_Hieracium caespitosum

Maurice Kenny   (Mohawk poet and teacher, born 1929)

new song


We are turning

eagles wheeling sky

We are rounding

sun moving in the air

We are listening

to old stories

Our spirits to the breeze

the voices are speaking

Our hearts touch earth

and feel dance in our feet

Our minds in clear thought

we speak the old words

We will remember everything

knowing who we are

We will touch our children

and they will dance and sing

As eagle turns, sun rises, winds blow,

ancestors, be our guides

Into new bloodless tomorrows.

.     .     .




night/ and not

even rain could

stop love-


in shadows


street unbuckled

rain slid down neck/


exposed to hands

all elements/

ancient mouth

tender as thistle-down

swallowed centuries


spent urgency


life re-newed/continues

stories are told

under winter moons

big orange melons

purple plums


Seminoles dance in this light


Comanches dance in this light

celebrate, too/together

fixed in sweat/suction

of flesh to flesh

celebrate, too


rain/ and rain

washes sky clean


is green

green sun, green moon, green dreams

and there is only

the good feeling


now to sleep

.     .     .

curt suggests


Passing through,

wolf presses snow,


as though winter moon

washed the fallen snow

drifting the mountain slope.


He howls

and I’m assured things

of the old mountain will

not only stay but survive.

It is all about survival…

not the internet, online

or standing, waiting for a big mac.

Humans have survived,

some say, perhaps too long.

Beauty. Nobility. Poetry.

Rewards for the warrior

who brought the village fire.


Wolf is always hunting.

Winter is long and frozen,

dark and deadly dangerous.

Farmers are armed.

Sleep without fat is eternal

and pups are bones in enemy’s teeth.


The politic is not the language,

not even the song belongs to the voice

until fires are built, walls erected

and it is safe to sleep. Then sing.


Raccoon falls from the elm,

a high branch.

Wolf watches from the hill.

Vocables quaver.

Rocks learn to sing

in the water of the swift river.

Now we stand erect

and walk through the green woods.

Our songs are safely sculpted

into ice and pray

it won’t melt

to the touch of the ear bending to echoes.


I don’t care if you are only passing

through these woods.  Stay.

.     .     .



I’ve wanted to speak to the world

for sometime now about you.

There are many who confuse you with another wild

flower which is, in truth,

no relation not even

a distant, kissing cousin.

You don’t even look alike

nor survive in the same country-side.

Many people claim you are Indian

Paint Brush. Just today

a friend spotted your bloom

decorating the roadside grasses

and called out… “O there’s a beauty…

a paint brush.” I had

to explain the brush blooms

out west…Oklahoma…and

is red.  Period.


You, on the other hand,

blossom here in the east

and your bloom is fire-

red or orange and sometimes

yellow and you came on the

Mayflower with the others

from across the seas.


Farmers think the hawk eats

your blossoms for sight,

vision, but we’re happy

you show up every spring

on the roadside or in the field

bringing colour to morning

though dotted with dew

or snake-spittle, bee-balm.

Up here in the Adirondacks

I’ve seen you rise in snow

when April/May arrived late.


Well, all I’ve really got

to say is if the farmer is right

then the red-tail is pretty smart

and deserves your sight.

Now we have to get the the other

humans to admit just who you are.

.     .     .     .     .

All poems © Maurice Kenny, from his collection In the Time of the Present (2000)

Photograph:  Hieracium caespitosum a.k.a. meadow or field hawkweed