Venie Environmental Poetry Prize

Ode to Earth by Shari Kocher

In her speaking she returns to us and I,
with my Not-I awake, and going about my day,
walk with Earth behind my lids, two by two,
and breathing thus, she holds us by the feet.

Today, between the work of marking
someone else’s words and the turning
of vegetables to bread, Earth took me out
and placed me in one resistless sweep

deep beneath her shining, where lips on mine,
she parts the shine and spins the Not-I surface
calm and sleek. There she holds and there
she takes a parting of the ways I cannot

name it. Though I crave it, the ten thousand
ways she tastes, unspooling Byzantium between
my ribs, her soft camel lashes brush the knap
of the Not-I that soars unmade in me

and wings me back to hearth beneath
a younger Earth snapped open: a whale’s
pelvis rocking the deep beneath the desert
un-sea-ed in me, the not-mine

taking me thoroughly in pieces with it:
charcoal, date-seed, ash and silicon,
the dunes with their kelp and nautilus,
potassium, all the spinning glow worms

unseen for centuries, curled in torchlight, whose
good wood burns great sliding prints on damp
cave walls chanting the riverborn heartsnake
welling upwards: the ten by ten

by thousand-year ice in rock and sand,
the windstorm in my rib-bones untangling
the tendrils of this beetroot’s roots, the slim
carrots and the parsley rinsed under a rustling

tap, whose pouring on my fingers is rain! rain
stored and steeped in sweetness, that unmistakeable
sky speech swinging through the water barrel: hello
Earth again, here we are getting on with dinner

ten thousand light years later in less than half a day.
Smoke rises through the roof you grew in patience,
holding your softness out, wanting us
to love you, wanting us to love
your night touch turning your breath diaphanous,
oh yes, the way the not-I draws upright to meet you
as water draws such thirst from stars they pour
your breathing hands upon our feet.


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