Poetry for Earth Day: “And I’ve been waiting long for an earth song”: Poems about Nature and Human Nature


Milkweed and bumblebee_Ward's Island, Toronto

Milkweed and bumblebee_Ward’s Island, Toronto


Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

Earth Song


It’s an earth song ––

And I’ve been waiting long

For an earth song.

It’s a spring song!

I’ve been waiting long

For a spring song:

Strong as the bursting of young buds.

Strong as the shoots of a new plant,

Strong as the coming of the first child

From its mother’s womb ––

An earth song!

A body song!

A spring song!

And I’ve been waiting long

For an earth song.

. . .

Helene Johnson (1906-1995)



Is this the sea?

This calm emotionless bosom,

Serene as the heart of a converted Magdalene ––

Or this?

This lisping, lulling murmur of soft waters

Kissing a white beached shore with tremulous lips;

Blue rivulets of sky gurgling deliciously

O’er pale smooth-stones ––

This too?

This sudden birth of unrestrained splendour,

Tugging with turbulent force at Neptune’s leash;

This passionate abandon,

This strange tempestuous soliloquy of Nature,

All these –– the sea?

. . .

Jessie Redmon Fauset (1882-1961)



When April’s here and meadows wide

Once more with spring’s sweet growths are pied,

I close each book, drop each pursuit,

And past the brook, no longer mute,

I joyous roam the countryside.

Look, here the violets shy abide

And there the mating robins hide –

How keen my senses, how acute,

When April’s here.


And list! down where the shimmering tide

Hard by that farthest hill doth glide,

Rise faint streams from shepherd’s flute,

Pan’s pipes and Berecynthian lute.

Each sight, each sound fresh joys provide

When April’s here.

. . .

Remica L. Bingham (born Phoenix, Arizona)

The Ritual of Season


1. Autumn


The candles we burned each monsoon night in August

stained the wooden holders that kept them in place.

As storm beat mauve to night and night beat mauve to damp morning,

we extinguished fire and bore the day like a crown.


II. Winter


dogged air nipped our faces

as we lay in formation

along the stiff ground – the young tribe


waiting mouths open

longing for snow


daily the heavens held back their glory

and we swept angels

into hard earth –

donning the silt of adobe wings

mocking the sun

damning her


III. Spring


The swollen hum, circadian rhythm,

displaced cockcrow, heralded dawn.


We toured the tan flatland, the ages

marked in furrowed caverns –

empty, cactus-ridden – sacred

secret paintings the only life

left on cave drawn walls.


Noon day, come high sun and oasis,

the headland showed her fury.

Dust would flare and we’d call it devil –

sheathing our faces, yielding to copper

coating our skin.


IV. Summer


Under desert sun, road became wavering river.

The shimmer of heat, salamander swift, crossed

the burning middle of July.


When the moon, large as ancestry, conquered the sky,

our weapons were bare feet and laughter –

a porchswing vigil staving off the day.

. . .

Shara McCallum (born 1972)

The Spider Speaks


No choice but to spin,

the life given.


Mother warned me

I would wake one dawn


to a sun no longer yellow,

to an expanse of blue,


no proper word

to name it. Weaving


the patterned threads

of my life, each day


another web and the next.

If instead I could carve


my message in stone,

would it mean more?


I have only this form

to give. When the last


silvery strand leaves

my belly, I will see


what colour the sun

has become.

Milkweed and butterfly_July 2015_Toronto

Arna Bontemps (1902-1973)



I shall come back when dogwood flowers are going

And passing drakes are honking toward the south

With eager necks, I shall come back knowing

The old unanswered question on your mouth.


When frost is on the manzonita shoots

And dogwoods at the spring are turning brown,

There between the interlacing roots

With folded arms I shall at last go down.

. . .

Ed Roberson (born 1939)

Urban Nature


Neither New Hampshire nor Midwestern farm,

nor the summer home in some Hamptons garden

thing, not that Nature, not a satori

-al leisure come to terms peel by peel, not that core

whiff of beauty as the spirit. Just a street

pocket park, clean of any smells, simple quiet ––

simple quiet not the same as no birds sing,

definitely not the dead of no birds sing:


The bus stop posture in the interval

of nothing coming, a not quite here running

sound underground, sidewalk’s grate vibrationless

in open voice, sweet berries ripen in the street

hawk’s kiosks. The orange is being flown in

this very moment picked of its origin.

. . .

C.S. Giscombe (born 1950)

Nature Boy


Air over the place partially occupied by crows going places every evening; the extent unseen from sidewalk or porch but obvious, because of the noise, even from a distance. Noise glosses – harsh, shrill, a wild card. Sundown’s a place for the eye, crows alongside that. Talk’s a rough ride, to me, what with the temptation to out-talk. At best long term memory’s the same cranky argument – changeless, not a tête-à-tête – over distance: to me, the category animals excludes birds, the plain-jane ones and birds of passage, both.To me, song’s even more ambiguous – chant itself, the place of connection and association. It’s birdless, bereft. I’m impartial, anhedonic. I’m lucky about distance but I would be remiss if I didn’t hesitate over image before going on.

. . .

Clarence Major (born 1936)

Water USA


america, tom sawyer, is bigger

than your swim

hole. You meant, the union, water-

falls, one waterfall

a path near, from which you

jump, folklore, holding

your nose. a chemical change

takes place as you pollute

the water i drink. as your

jet lands, crashing my

environment. tom sawyer can’t hold

all the dead bodies upright

nor get anything

out of a lecture on control

systems. and bigger

thomas didn’t have an even

chance to study chemistry

. . .

Ishmael Reed (born 1938)

Points of View


the pioneers and the indians

disagree about a lot of things,

for example, the pioneer says that

when you meet a bear in the woods

you should yell at him and if that

doesn’t work you should fell him.

the indians say that you should

whisper to him softly and call him by

loving nicknames.

no one’s bothered to ask the bear

what he thinks.

. . .

Carl Phillips (born 1959)

The Cure


The tree stood dying – dying slowly, in the usual manner

of trees, slowly, but not without its clusters of spring leaves

taking shape again, already. The limbs that held them tossed,


shifted, the light fell as it does, through them, though it

sometimes looked as if the light were being shaken, as if

by the branches – the light, like leaves, had it been autumn,


scattering down: singly, in fistfuls. Nothing about it to do

with happiness, or glamour. Not sadness either. That much

I could see, finally. I could see, and want to see. The tree


was itself, its branches were branches, shaking, they shook

in the wind like possibility, like impatient escorts bored with

their own restlessness, like hooves in the wake of desire, in


the wake of the dream of it, and like the branches they were.

A sound in the branches like that of luck when it turns, or is

luck itself a fixed thing, around which I myself turn or don’t,


I remember asking – meaning to ask. Where had I been, for

what felt like forever? Where was I? The tree was itself, and

dying; it resembled, with each scattering of light, all the more


persuasively the kind of argument that can at last let go of them,

all the lovely-enough particulars that, for a time, adorned it:

force is force. The tree was itself. The light fell here and there,


through it. Like history. No –– history doesn’t fall, we fall

through history, the tree is history, I remember thinking, trying

not to think it, as I lay exhausted down in its crippled shadow.

. . .

Frank X. Walker (born 1961)



The unripe cherry tomatoes, miniature red chili peppers

and small burst of sweet basil and sage in the urban garden

just outside the window on our third floor fire escape

might not yield more than seasoning for a single meal


or two, but it works wonders as a natural analgesic

and a way past the monotony of bricks and concrete,

the hum of the neighbour’s TV, back to the secret garden

we planted on railroad property when I was just a boy.


I peer into the window, searching for that look on mamma’s face,

when she kicked off her shoes, dug her toes into dirt

teeming with corn, greens, potatoes, onions, cabbage and beets;

bit into the flesh of a ripe tomato, then passed it down the row.


Enjoying our own fruit, we let the juice run down our chins,

leaving a trail of tiny seeds to harvest on hungry days like these.

. . .

Tim Seibles (born 1955)


(for Moombi)


Good to see the green world

undiscouraged, the green fire

bounding back every spring, and beyond

the tyranny of thumbs, the weeds

and other co-conspiring green genes

ganging up, breaking in,

despite small shears and kill-mowers,

ground gougers, seed-eaters.

Here they comes, sudden as graffiti


not there and then there ––

naked, unhumble, unrequitedly green ––

growing as if they would be trees

on any unmanned patch of earth,

any sidewalk cracked, crooning

between ties on lonesome railroad tracks.

And moss, the shyest green citizen

anywhere, tiptoeing the trunk

in the damp shade of an oak.


Clear a quick swatch of dirt

and come back sooner than later

to find the green friends moved in:

their pitched tents, the first bright

leaves hitched to the sun, new roots

tuning the subterranean flavours,

chlorophyll setting a feast of light.


Is it possible –– to be so glad?

The shoots rising in spite of every plot

against them. Every chemical stupidity,

every burned field, every better

home & garden finally overrun

by the green will, the green greenness

of green things growing greener.

The mad Earth publishing

her many million murmuring

unsaids. Look


how the shade pours

from the big branches – the ground,

the good ground, pubic

and sweet. The trees – who

are they? Their stillness, that

long silence, the never

running away.

. . .

Marilyn Nelson (born 1946)

Last Talk with Jim Hardwick

(a “found” poem)


When I die I will live again.

By nature I am a conserver.

I have found Nature

to be a conserver, too.

Nothing is wasted

or permanently lost

in Nature. Things

change their form,

but they do not cease

to exist. After

I leave this world

I do not believe I am through.

God would be a bigger fool

than even a man

if He did not conserve

the human soul,

which seems to be

the most important thing

He has yet done in the universe.

When you get your grip

on the last rung of the ladder

and look over the wall

as I am now doing,

you don’t need their proofs:

You see.

You know

you will not die.

. . .

Ross Gay (born 1974)

Thank You


If you find yourself half naked

and barefoot in the frosty grass, hearing,

again, the earth’s great, sonorous moan that says

you are the air of the now and gone, that says

all you love will turn to dust,

and will meet you there, do not

raise your fist. Do not raise

your small voice against it. And do not

take cover. Instead, curl your toes

into the grass, watch the cloud

ascending from your lips. Walk

through the garden’s dormant splendour.

Say only, thank you.

Thank you.

. . . . .