In Celebration of Earth Day: Poems and Images from the Farnsworth

On April 22, 2020, the Farnsworth is featuring poems by Maine writers exploring praise of nature, the psychological and emotional connections with nature and the environment, and poems of warning in the light of the climate crisis. These images are also being offered throughout the day on our Facebook and Instagram feed. Each poem is paired with an image from a Farnsworth teaching artist or artwork from the Farnsworth collection.

To download PDFs of the individual poems and images, please click here.

SEASMOKE – haiku variations – winter 2020 by Lois Anne

seasmoke lavender
in the morning light
our breath freezes

seasmoke rises – 
on the beach
seaweed freezes

frigid morning
seasmoke hovers 
grey on grey 

on the bay
seasmoke hovers
grey on grey

Image link: https://collection.farnsworthmuseum.org/objects/180
George Bellows, Sea in Fog, 1913, Oil on plywood panel, 15 1/2 x 20 inches, Museum purchase, 1945.568

FAITH by Marjorie Arnett

I patiently wait for the time 
of leaping and crackling grass, 
for the transformation 
of meadows hidden under fear.

I wait for the earth 
to come off its perch, 
for the fish to point back
 to the tree leaning far into the bay.

The sun and the rain will restore 
the dove cooing deep within the pine, 
and the glare of August sun will be seen 
through the cluster of thousands 
playing Mozart on the shore. 

Image link: https://collection.farnsworthmuseum.org/objects/4340

Dee Peppe, Old Orchard Beach, Maine, 2002, Silver gelatin print, 22 1/4 x 28 1/4 x 3/4 inches, Museum purchase, 2004.13.1

EVEN NOW 

we begin again.

Perhaps dawn calls us
a breeze through an open window
fragrance of orchard and honey
the clacking of crows.

Perhaps as we rise
still webbed in dream
we dare again to anticipate 
touch.

The morning understands.

Even now its ancient 
worms monarchs crows
press on
toward their ineluctable bliss   

its gnarled 
apple trees 
quake
with heedless and holy expectancy

of light
of warmth
of bee to brush their blossoms’ yearning
dust

into ovaries 
into fruit again
seeds again
their dark embryos dreaming

of some beloved purpose.

Laura Bonazzoli

From “Deep Water: Maine Poems,” the Portland Press Herald, March 15, 2020.

Image from the collection: https://collection.farnsworthmuseum.org/objects/2654

Bernard Chaet, Strawberries II, Watercolor and graphite on paper, 1987, Gift of Marilyn P. Loesberg, 1996                                                               

THE FUTURE by Linda Buckmaster

            “. . . and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.”

                                                                                                Genesis I. 1

             “This [fighting] angered the Creator, Kichi Manito, who decided to flood the

              earth into a rebirth.”

Algonquin creation story
What year is it? you are wondering. 
We don’t know yet, but now, in this future,
the roadway humans once called “Route 1” 
on the east coast of Turtle Island, the one
that ran from the mangroves of Key West 
to the granite of Maine, is mostly submerged 
except the last miles to Calais. Along 
its storied route, the American dream lies drowned. 
Massive tanks seep concentrated remains 
distorted into poisons: Polluted circles 
ripple out, as life re-makes itself in the widening 
zones from non-existent to bizarre to promising.

The mangroves and granite hold fast; rising water 
is not their enemy. Fish with new biology swim 
and spawn among reefs sprouted from submerged 
remains of condos, government buildings, 
and strip clubs. Once-glowing signs made from base elements 
– argon, mercury, phosphorus – now carry only sunlight 
filtered by sea water, the shapes of letters useless. 
Zoos stand empty after the last humans left gates open 
for animals to adapt and mate with curious others. 
“Marine Parks” really are marine.
The old coast is dead! Long live the coast!
The spirits of gods and goddesses once again move over the face of the waters.

Image link: https://collection.farnsworthmuseum.org/objects/2336

Berenice Abbott, Untitled (East Machias Post Office), Gelatin silver print, 1954, Gift of Ronald A. Kurtz, 1987.17.34                

INVASIVE SPECIES by Kathleen Ellis

It’s not like they’ve just arrived.
Barberries have been here since
the 19th century, their thorny shrubs
creating a hideaway for ticks.
Banned in New England, their 
modus operandi is suppression,

suggesting they’re in cahoots and
form a dark thicket. Thick as thieves, 
the barberrians and ticks become 
a perfect storm. The shrubs won’t 
stay put, defiling the forest
in the litter they leave behind.  

You take this personally,
being from away and from
another century. The love 
you broke into like a berry patch,
so attracted to the birds,
could not survive the shade.

Words invade landscape,
erasing everything. Even 
the ragged margin of a poem
suggests infraction.
Purple loosestrife
Encroaching

Cynthia Motian McGuirl, The Runner, Gouache, mixed media on paper, 2020

HOW CAN WE NOT LOVE THIS WORLD by Zoe FitzGerald-Beckett

Here is the world.
Each day a revelation.

Eons of enticements,
Centuries of seductions.

Ocean waves wanting one-ness,
their tug at your toes.

Moonlight silvering the dark.
Sunlight gilding the day.

A seed’s  brazen push up and out.
A leaf’s poetic launch from limb.

All the liminal, luminous spaces,
swollen and pregnant with promise.

The earth’s very breath.
The give and take of it.

Speaking in ancient tongues, white-hot
whispers, nibbling into the nautilus of your ear.

The body of the world.
Its steady rhythmic thrum.

Its beating heart, waiting.

Robert Pollien, Sand Beach, Right, Oil on linen, 2013

http://pollien.com/

EVIDENCE by Ellen Goldsmith

The ash outside our window

 is ready to lose its leaves.

I hear its willingness

in the aroma of apples

becoming sauce,

in the whisper of water

as it backs away from shore,

in the melting into dark

as mauve leaves the sky.

The evidence was always there.

Aren’t we asked to see beauty

as our gardens die back,

as winter narrows the palette

to grays and browns?

And what of those times

when hard holding doesn’t work?

Think of a wounded bird

in your palm, or an egg.

From Where to Look, 2013 and published in Antiphon Journal

Image from the collection: https://collection.farnsworthmuseum.org/objects/3344

Louise Nevleson, Abstract Form, Terracotta sculpture, Circa 1946-1951, Gift of Louise Nevelson, 1981 81.11.7

CARTOGRAPHY by Margie Kivel

In my naming can I save them? On the edge with no place to go or return from, as if one took a large axe and chopped those forested tracts, the glacial ice, the wetlands and savannahs right out of the map of the world, left a hole that the wind blows through but leaves nothing behind. If I paint them, calling to mind with each brush stroke their exquisite beauty, the uniqueness of form and placement in the circle, if I sing their song as I paint, will all these actions keep them here?

Image from the collection: https://collection.farnsworthmuseum.org/objects/2615

Paul Plante, Mourning Dove, Oil pastel on paper, 1993, Gift of the artist in memory of his Parents, Mr. and Mrs. Ovila Plante, 97.25.2

PANDEMIC JOURNAL by Kristen Lindquist

spring rain
watching the river rise
as if it mattered

self-isolation
only the wind
pushes me around

spring snow
me and a titmouse
both kind of whiny

pandemic fears
spiraling
vultures move northward

social distancing
three worlds away a neighbor
plays with her dog

wide awake
with fears for the world
the slap of sleet

new moon
in spite of everything
planting peas

Erika Manning, Field, Oil on canvas, 2020
https://erikamanningart.com/

CONUNDRUM by Carolyn Locke

Placing each foot with care, she walks slowly in early morning,
thinks today she will do no harm. Meanwhile, with every step

she crushes tender blades of grass, white clover blossoms,
fronds of plants she can’t name. She comes upon a city of ants,

little pyramids nestled in the grass, uncountable tiny bodies
crawling in and out, up, down, and around, going about

their business in the sudden shadow of her enormous presence.
A thrush sings in the woods. An echo replies. Again she thinks,

I will do no harm, all the while trampling on what has waited
all winter in the frozen ground to live. She lifts her foot,

sees them bounce back—the green grass, the moss, the clover—
but those clever ant hills? No. Those inside who have survived

the carnage must tunnel up to the surface, begin again
amid scattered corpses. Like the dolphins and the whales,

the monkeys and so many others, do they mourn their dead?
Do no harm, no harm, she whispers.

from The Riddle of Yes published by Maine Authors Publishing, 2019

Sherrie York, ComeAlongDear, Linocut, 2020.
https://sherrieyork.com/

ANIMALS OF REMEMBERED LIGHT  by Claire Millikin

In the shadow of backyard live-oak kneeling
a doe and fawn, newly born animal,
the scum of emergence still on him,  
shining. The mother’s tongue
licked clean a dappled skein between them.

That June day hotter than any recorded before,
in shaded gulch behind the yard
she sought fugitive coolness for the birth,
the infant’s ankles supple as lacewings.
Remember it, the patience of that light. 

Image from the collection: https://collection.farnsworthmuseum.org/objects/3360

Margo Harris, Untitled (Two Deer), Stone relief mounted in wood, Circa 1957, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bert Thome, 1983 83.28

CELEBRATION OF EARTH DAY by Wendy Satin Rapaport

Celebration, that means I can’t complain, right? about the injuries, the taking for granted, right?…that we do with the greatest gift on earth. We are supposed to celebrate the miracle and be moved

to save our environment

and each other

virus and all

it’s nature’s beauty that soothes and satisfies and reminds me the grass is going to be green again and flowers bloom…how dear the cycle of life…to lift me from the now of fear and hope. I’m glad I don’t have to physically isolate from nature so I can heal the inside wounds of fear, so acute

and chronic 

we must

virus and all

all do our part, have gratitude together, and separate the plastics from the paper, oh yeah and reuse the plastic, and seriously stop buying plastic, and shut the lights, and don’t brush our teeth with the sound of music-i.e. the water running, and please unplug, and oh what a bidet, and walk, and go paperless and otherwise stay well dressed.

Abbie Read, Spring Sketch, 2020, Watercolor and felt tip, 2020.
https://abbiereadartist.com/

CELEBRATION OF EARTH DAY by Wendy Satin Rapaport

ODE TO TREES by Ellen Taylor

To you, I owe my house –
timbers and beams,
clapboards and doors;
To you I owe thresholds,
floors: fir and pine,
hand-hewn, lavish
with knots and waves of grain.
To you I owe
our cutting boards,
salad bowls, wooden spoons,
the table where
we break our bread,
chairs where we bow our heads
and give Thanks –
or should – for Trees:
our breath, our breeze,
their life, our reprise.

Image from the collection: https://collection.farnsworthmuseum.org/objects/5469

Eliot Porter, Spruce Trees in Fog, Great Spruce Head Island, Maine, August 20, 1954, Gelatin silver print, 1972, Museum purchase with support from the Friends of the Farnsworth Collection, 2009.3

AN ODE TO PLANKTON by Sandy Weisman

Diatom, ciliate, and krill – 

drifters I’ll never meet 
in the sea pasture 

of shimmering
  blue, pink, and neon 

green breathing machines 
for the gasping planet. 

Oh, Kandinsky whirligigs, 

oh, frilled medusae, and sparkling chains 
of diamond bracelets – 

how you offer 

yourselves to mackerel, seal, shark,

and on and on 
through the chain

the sea bequeaths us a whale.

Image from the collection: https://collection.farnsworthmuseum.org/objects/5490

Frankie Odom, Spawning, Woodcut, 2008, Museum purchase, 2009.6.19

A CRY FOR INSURGENCY by Hadassa Wisch

After a photograph Moon Shine by Jitka Honzlavå 

Suppliant or Shaman, an aged tree calls to ancient gods for mercy in a ravaged landscape. Gray clouds sprawl, pale numinous moon glows through blue-green miasma. Harm has been done. 

Petitioner or Priest, it prays, for hope’s renewal, for living. Others too, stand dying, limbs stripped bare reaching up for light, and what remains of air, for our will to see, for courage to stop shapeshifters in our midst forging evil. 

Image from the collection: https://collection.farnsworthmuseum.org/objects/3996

Bradbury Prescott, Freshly Cut, Black & White Photography, 1967, Gift of Bradbury M. Prescott in memory of Carroll Thayer Berry, 1999

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