The Re-Greening

 
 
 
“You must all life revere.” (The Tirukkural)

“Ask the animals and they will teach you,
the birds of the air and they will tell you…” (Job 12:7)
 
“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” (Troilus and Cressida)
 
 
 
Russkaya Ruletka1
 
Hot, high winds blow across the land,
withering the Green Earth into dust bowls,
sink holes, whipping up raging mass infernos,
devastating, decimating, burning alive,
drying up the watering holes.
Death, death everywhere…
 
Koalas drag their burned babies,
milky eyes blinded, weeping blood,
fur, flesh scorched, from the Burning
Bush, the eucalyptus stakes, from
among the Bonga Bonga trees.
 
The mulga trees, the mulga trees,
the mulga trees are dying, last resort
food source for the famished, Outback
‘cattle’ who, drought-stricken,
don’t have any grass.
 
Lappish rheindeer scrape frantically
for life-line lichen; they are starving
to death in new winters because
they cannot dig through the hard ice
that was once soft snow;
global warming, and so much rain,
have frozen their only hope
of survival.
 
Pulsating lives are turned
into bowel fodder – while
the ancient Brazilian forest
is razed, razed and routed
for the endless, ruddy river…
 
The wild ones, pushed
to the edgelands of being,
melt on incinerated winds,
drown in the paddy fields:
from one extreme, to the other.
 
Man, against Nature.
Where, where is the love?
 
‘Resource’ thinking
is destroying the planet.
 
Convenience is a killer.
“Did somebody say: Just Eat?”2
 
Everyone is breaking
the Rulebook!
 
They painted Green words
with their lips,
while their minds imagined
more profit – and loss;
they minced
their bloody words.
 
And the waters rose
and the whale-roads
grew taller and fatter…
 
Apple-eating
was never forbidden!
 
I have given you every plant yielding seed…
and every tree with seed in its fruit
…You shall have them for food.” (Genesis 1:29)
 
The seed! The seed!
The ancient creed!
 
As it was…
in the Beginning,
until some foraging fruitarians Fell
into frenzied flesh-feasting
on flabbergasted, friendly fleers,
and fanciful fabricators
fiendishly fiddled the Word,
founding “Fear and Dread
and fattening, flipping
and flavouring…
 
A trillion wrongs
can never
make “a right.”
 
The skies are filled
with the ghosts
of blameless sheep,
screaming elephants,
bereft bears,
dehorned rhinos!
 
We have become Uncivilized!
 
24 millionyears ago,
the first song birds sounded
the first choral notes, in the pristine
rainforests of Australia.
 
The first humans arriving
on Earth just 200,000 years ago,
were not Anyone’s First Thought
 
Under the English Channel3
is an underwater valley,
7 miles wide, 50 metres deep,
with steep, vertical sides.
 
Hidden beneath the waves
for nearly 11,000 years,
it was created by one of the most
powerful flood events on Earth.3
 
Mouth-droppingly, it mirrors
minutely, the monumental
flood terrains of Mars:3
the Dead, Red, hot-house Planet.
 
Mirror-mirror of the Fall,
is there still enough time to stall?
 
A sapling cannot do the work
of a 500 year old oak tree.
 
The global seas are dying;
the glaciers are melting;
the waters are a-rising!
 
This is the Eleventh Hour.
 
There’s a Tesla car, being driven
by a mannequin in a spacesuit, 
far beyond Earth’s orbit now –
and he’s not going to save us!

The road forks
Two Ways:
Death or Life,
Life or Death –
QUO VADIS?
 
Street light, flat light, burning bright,
in the cities of the night,
what diurnal heart or eye,
can claim its needful reverie?4
 
…Oh city, thou art sick.5
 
Artificial lights,
burning all night long,
killing insects, bats, birds.
 
The bats can’t navigate, the birds
are singing themselves to death;
no one can rest as they should
because of Man’s endless ‘daylight.’
 
The insects aren’t breeding,
and so there’s no food,
for the exhausted birds.
 
Cause – and Effect…
 
When are we going to WAKE UP?
 
The Neanderthals died
and became fossilized;
the Neanderthals who had
a population history as long
and complex as ours.
 
We are due
a palaeomagnetic
reversal.
 
Falling meteorites
Uncertain ending
Torrential rain
Underwater deserts
Rough weather
Every day
 
Green Tara, Blue Krishna weep:
Where is the harvest,
the Golden Harvest
of karuṇā, of mettā? 6
 
Too much Eros;
not enough Philia
and a woeful lack
of Agape.7
 
O hind of the dawn!
They have cracked
your tender sides,
cut you so deep,
it is surely mortal.
 
The city of London
was a Paradise once:
Oakwood, Nine Elms,
Heathrow, Brockley…
 
The Thunder bellows,
the tides tumble, spiral, whip up,
raise themselves to unseen
oceanic heights – slapping hard
at the false ‘world’ of Man.
 
The shore weeps,
the waves wail –
the smell already
on the autumn shores.
 
Oh RETURN! RETURN! RETURN!
 
 
The Dead are not powerless8
 
The humble broken;
the broken who
expect nothing.
 
Son of Man, you
pluck them out!
You pluck them!
I have heard!
 
The loud, toss
and tear at
the quiet-voiced.
 
Lungs shriek
at the breath-
depriving gas.
 
Bowels empty
in raw rivulets
at the sight (and force)
of the lightning rod,
at the cruelties
of annihilation.
 
The Earth cries out!
 
Why? Why? Why? Why?
 
Every death is an extinction!
Every death is an extinction!
 
The Earth does not belong to us!
 
Put your nose to the wind
and smell the gloom in the cages,
the terror of blood and pain.
 
We are deadened.
 
I will show you something different…
 
I will show you hope,
in the greening grass,
in the pulsing mustard seed,
in the pollinating bee.
I will show you hope,
in the returning beaver,
the bridge-builder.
 
I will show you hope,
in the dancing spines
of sprouting saplings.
 
Forget-me-not.
 
The Earth is stirring.
 
 
What The Watchers Said:
 
When all the earth is full of woe,
and plants and fruits no longer grow,
and trees are felled through fire or blow,
and watercourses cannot flow,
damned and blocked up, (the fish-aglow)…
 
And lions fall, through gun and bow,
and ancient stags are brought down low,
and bloody ‘peppered’ are their doe,
and silent is the cawing crow;
 
When hens are ‘batteried’ row on row,
and pigs are crated toe to toe,
and sheep mass-drown in decks below,
as living ‘stock,’ as sea ‘cargo,’
 
And it’s a ‘sport’ a calf to throw,
a bull to pierce in soft torso  –
 
And Man is nothing…but a foe,
refusing change, for status quo,
negating Oneness, quid pro quo,
 
Too arrogant to till and hoe,
too comfortable to dig and sow,
too anxious not to see, to know;
 
To feel remorse
for the pain he’s caused –
 
for The Great Sorrow,
The Great Sorrow…
 
Then errant Man,
obsessed with ‘dough’ –
the earth’s Shadow
will have to GO!
 
Exit. Pursued by a bear.9
 
 
Mahapralaya10
 
In the day of dismal thunder,
surge, foam, on the deep Atlantic,
consumed and consuming, in deluge
o’er the earth-born man! The cloud
bears hard on Albion’s shore.11
 
A raging whirlpool draws
the dizzy enquirer to his grave.11
 
Then all the eternal forests
were divided into earths rolling
in circles of space,
that like an ocean rush’d
and overwhelmed all
of this finite wall
of prideful flesh.11
 
Rolling volumes of grey mist
involve Churches, Palaces, Towers!11
 
Urizen unclaspd his Book,
his brazen Book,
that Kings and Priests
had copied on Earth.11
 
Wail, hunter,
whaler of the whale!
Flee, killer of the flea!
Cry yourself hoarse,
racer, gambler, ‘knacker’
of the broken-leggèd horse!
 
Seal your lips, slayer,
pitiless bludgeoner
of the newborn,
begging seal!
 
Can you see the sea rising?
Are your eyes brimming now,
for the cutting, the weeping,
the woeful wounds?
 
For the bleeder of flesh,
gill, fin, fur, tail,
the fishy business,
the bloody RIP tide,
the ghost nets,
ripping off
the backs of others,
there is only one
tale ending: FIN.
 
This is a cri
de Coeur.
 
There’s LOVE
at the heart
of EVOL-ving,
when we turn
that EVIL around,
and let LIVE!
 
Every life MATTERS!
 
Don’t lick the Colonel’s bloody fingers!
 
The mink scream in the furnaces!
 
The ripped and bloody furs
of murdered brothers and sisters…
 
The silent lobsters cry out,
as they are boiled alive.
 
Imagination has shrunk
to the size of a bank balance.
 
The Great Green Uprising
 
Prayer flags snapped
in the wind.
The trees creaked.
No tree ‘surgeons’
would now put human
“health and safety”
above the act
of their dismembering.
 
They hurled their branches
like witches fingers,
the tight stumps
of ancient amputees,
at the former wielders
of fire, of chainsaw;
limbs flayed
and came crashing
to the ground.
 
“In the sod yourselves now,”
they wailed and whispered.
 
“Are clouds sheep-angels?”
the loggers wondered,
as theyscudded through
the speedwell, heather skies,
before BLACK OUT.
 
The Earth does not belong to us!
The Earth does not belong to us!

Waves
are on the meadow.12

We cannot fight the moss,
the many nameless ones.
 
It is the humble ant, who will walk
across these pages, the leaf moulds
that will have the last word.
 
There shall come forth a shoot
from the stump of a tree,
and a branch shall grow out
of this stump and its roots.13
                     
And their delight shall be!13
 
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
and the calf and the lion together.13
 
The cow and the bear shall feed;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat grass like the ox –
and over the hole of the asp,
and on the adder’s den. 13
 
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all the holy Earth;
for the Earth shall be full
of the knowledge of the Way,
as the sea waters cover the land.13
 
In that day the LORD
will extend His hand
to recover them
from the sea. 13
 
He will raise them again,
and will assemble and gather them,
from the four corners of the Earth. 13
 
Jealous men shall depart!
Those who harassed them
shall be cut off! 13
 
And there will be a Way
for the remnant which is left,
as there was when they first came. 13
 
Man did not weave the web of life;
he is merely a strand in it.
Whatever he does to the web,
he does to himself. 14
 
The deer, the horse, great eagle,
these are our brothers.14
 
Regret is useless.14
 
The Fisher King 15
 
When Turtle Dove and Teal turn back
and Bean Goose, Black Grouse, Bittern are beheld;
and Herring Gull and House Sparrow are hailed
and Little Grebe and Lapwing lauded;
when Whimbrel and Wigeon are on the wing;
and Fieldfare in the fields once more,
and Ruddy Duck are not a human curse,
and Eider neither ducking, nor ‘down’…
 
When the earth got demobbed,
I said: “VE Day!
Victory for the Earth!”
 
I gave up fishing years ago.
It tears the mouth. It hurts. I realized.
I’ve seen them bleed, gasp – writhe.
I am moved now, by being.
 
I knew it wasn’t clever in the end
and anything but peaceful.
Like knocking down
and suffocating a toddler.
Not funny at all.
 
Absolutely no skill there.
 
I gave up all notions of ‘Kingship’ too. 
I don’t Lord it over anyone these days.
There are no hierarchies.
I’m just an old bloke with a hat
and a privileged education.
 
I’m all for anarchy, if I’m honest:
everyone taking proper responsibility, as adults.
 
The Earth is sick, but we’re working hard
to restore it, mend it, heal everyone – 
the few that are left, together, collectively.
 
The Healing Question? 
 
It was staring us in the eye all along.
Simple, when you come to think about it:
Whose side are you on – Life or Death?
 
The wheat from the chaff.16
 

Hortus Botanicus
 
Bramble, Bellbind, Twitch grass, Nettle…
Ground elder, Willow-herb, Horsetail, Dock…
 
Embryonic ferns sleep, coiled,
gathering, mustering for their timely
explosion back onto Earth’s stage.
 
The acorns itch and keen
(stripling oaks already,)
hazel, beech, chestnut tremble,
desperate to birth their buds.
 
The snowdrops push 
their pretty heads
against the ice sheets.
 
Bluebells ascend
through the grass tufts.
 
Green, green the fields and hills,
the meadow, marshes, moor.
 
Green, green the cliffs and wolds,
the woods and forest floor!
 
They walk through a valley of Green.
 
The pastures are prisons no more!
The pastures are killing fields no more!
 
The desiccated deserts flower blue.
The arid plains are verdant grasslands.
 
Lemon sharks are having their pups
in the mangrove forests.
 
The moon drags the tides,
in a rhythmic lullaby.
 
Elephants herds drink deeply
from fresh watering holes.
 
Oh foggage green! 17
 
The gulls whirl and call, whirl and call –
and the rock-doves respond: Shalom!
Shall-Aum! Shall-Aum!
 
Whole families are together again:
calves with cows and bulls,
lambs with ewes and rams,
sows and boars with their piglets,
out forest foraging…
 
The cloven footed are in clover;
they roll in clover, padding in the pink.
 
The earth pulses, alive
with a humming, droning,
calling, cudding, buzzing,
with so many wings on the wind.
The bushes are alive with birds!
 
Goldfinch mothers hover
over downy dandelions,
wings vibrato, gathering
flower seeds for their nurseries.
(There are no “weeds” in Nature.)
 
Everywhere the beech babies
in tight, citrus silks,
pressing through.
 
Shy elk on Oregon beaches,
in plain sight.
 
The croaking of…
endangered frogs and toads.
 
The rotating Earth
is full of Love, warmed
by the sun above,
and the magma below.
 
The Old world was washed away.
The Old Earth is being restored.
 
This is the Biocene.
 
A Culture built on death, had to end.
 
The veils of Ignorance were torn down,
the walls of their torture chambers
(in the name of so-called ‘science’)
the walls of the ‘slaughterhouses,’
the halls of their many mirrors,
all the smoke-screens, which hid
their dreadful daily deeds from us.
 
The Truth shone powerfully
into everyone’s hearts,
we finally knew, saw all
the bald and bloody facts,
the bald and bloody men
who had deceived us,
and undone so many,
for their calculated
profiteering.
 
We broke the Silence,
took our power back.
 
Consumers stopped consuming.
 
We cried a flood-plain
of grief and remorse.
 
We willingly changed
our habits of a lifetime.
 
We had been complicit in mass murder,
in over 80 years of concentration camps,
in the oldest slave trade of all  –
in a globally-concealed,
Satanic cult.
 
We shudder to remember
the world of ‘Man,’
before the Earthway.
 
Murder, money-making, cutting, culling,
burning, bludgeoning, gassing, gorging,
dumping, deforesting, pillaging, polluting,
plastics and perversity – are DONE!
 
The Grim Times are behind us now.
There are no ‘pests’ and no ‘controllers.’  
 
Walls are wild, roofs are rooted,
sills are seeded, boxes brim,
furled fronds fling out freshness –
and the oxygen harvest is bountiful.
 
April is the kindest month,
now that the Fool’s Day is over.18
 
We are learning to be beings again:
you are, I am, we are – One.
 
Money is meaningless,
so we no longer use it.
 
We are Luddites,
Jacks-in-the-Green, 19
New Diggers, Green Sappers;
our ethos simple: “Harm none.”
 
We know that we are earthlings:
98% chimpanzee/bonobo, 50%
banana, and that this Oneness
is a Miraculous Fact – of Life.
 
Green, green the rushes grow,
the broccoli, wheat and barley…
 
England is…
a wildlife meadow,
a wetland, woodland,
windswept, bird-flocked shingle,
with singing thickets, sunlit groves.
 
Bees, birds, basking butterflies
scatter the good seed and pollen
on the land and it is fed and watered.
 
Earthworms diligently turn the soil;
slugs, beatles, flies, woodlice, (frontline-workers)
deal with all ‘waste’ management.
 
Lilies and honeysuckle perfume the valleys,
wild brock dreams on the wind…
 
Everywhere Nature
breathes its relief.
 
AUM…SHANTIH! SHANTIH! SHANTIH!20

“People desperately want to keep the status quo. But we need to fundamentally change what we prioritize. Hope only comes from action. No one seems to fully understand the consequences! We need to adjust, adapt, change just about everything we do. Technology is not the silver bullet. We need to make dramatic changes – individually and globally. Carbon-capture technologies are good – but we can’t rely on these alone! We are facing an existential threat! Mass extinction is very important! I care about the living planet! It is my moral duty as a human being to do everything I can.” – interview fragments from Greta Thunberg
 
“Unless we do something, we will lose everything. Animals who were here, are no longer here. Self-interest is for the past, common interest is for the future. We need everyone. We must step out of our own comfort zones. COVID 19 has given us a huge opportunity to reset. We have to abandon fossil fuels and immediately. 20-30% of all animals will be extinct by 2050! There are many who care. If the young people sustain this it could change the world. But we don’t have another decade to wait.” – interview fragments from Sir David Attenborough
 
 
 
Heidi Stephenson
 
 
“This is a rewritten version of The Re-Greening. I retrospectively discovered that T.S. Eliot’s work, which the first version openly responded to, in the Earth’s pressing cause, is still in copyright in the UK until 2036 (though not in the US).”
 
 
NOTES
 
The Re-Greening is in part a recycling,  re-arranging, re-invigorating (for our urgent times now,) and a re-using of some found lines and ideas from William Blake, Robert Burns, William Shakespeare, Robert Louis Stevenson, Heathcote Williams, T.S. Eliot,  Chief Seattle, the Hebrew Bible, Jesus in the Gospels,  the Upanishads, the Tirukkural, and other inspirations.
 
Old words and wisdom are fused with new words and ideas and a new lens of perception, in order to create (I hope) a current, cultural narrative. Many different global cultural strands are intentionally woven together, as a collective, global commitment and response are what is most needed now. 
 
The poem is at times fractured and disparate, then harmonising again, to reflect the complex state we’re in.
 
There are many voices. Without a deep re-greening of the human mind and heart, halting climate catastrophe, ending the mass abuse of our fellow beings and restoring and re-greening the planet externally, will be impossible. I called upon some old masters for help.
 
1 Russian for Russian Roulette.
2 The infamous catch-phrase of a well-known television advert.
3 Information from Chris Stringer’s Homo Britannicus.
4 Lines from William Blake’s The Tyger re-versioned.
5 Line from William Blake’s The Sick Rose re-versioned.
6Karuṇā and mettā are two of the Four Sublime States that the Buddha taught that people should develop in themselves. Karuṇā is having compassion for all living beings, and mettā  is loving kindness, the proactive desire to help free all living beings from suffering.
7 There are six Ancient Greek words for love and they are each distinct. Eros is sexual love, Philia is affection, respect, friendship, a recognition of equality, and Agape is the highest love of all, spiritual love, unconditional love, brother/sisterhood, the sort of love that we mostly today only show our children; it is to “will the good of another” (Thomas Aquinas).
8 “The dead are not altogether powerless” were words spoken by Chief Seattle in 1854.
9 Shakespeare’s famous stage direction from Act III of The Winter’s Tale.
10Mahapralaya is the Great Dissolution in Hindu cosmology.
11 This verse section is part found, part original, using lines, fragments and variations of lines and fragments from William Blake’s Europe: A Prophecy.
12 Variation on a line from Robert Louis Stevenson’s children’s poem Pirate Story.
13 A section of Isaiah 11 cleaned up and ‘re-versioned.’ I believe this is close to the original, before corrupting scribes, working for the animal-sacrificing, flesh-eating, Jerusalem temple priests, altered the prophet’s words.
14 Words spoken by Chief Seattle in 1854.
15 My repentant Fisher King is a radical departure from T.S. Eliot’s in The Waste Land and the Fisher King of the Grail legends.
16 A metaphor which Jesus used in Matthew 3:12 and Matthew 13:30.
17 Line taken fromRobert Burns’ poem To A Mouse.
18A key variation on T.S. Eliot’s famous opening line from The Waste Land, which in turn was his own variation on Chaucer’s famous opening line to The General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales: “Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote” (When April with his showers sweet.)
19 Heathcote Williams referenced these May Day London sweeps in his long poem The Green Man is a Green Terrorist.
20 A slight variation on T.S. Eliot’s famous last words from The Waste Land, which he in turn took from the Sanskrit Upanishads: “Shantih” is the ultimate Peace and Unity, which surpasses all understanding; the Hebrew equivalent is Shalom.
 
 
 
 
 

By Heidi Stephenson

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5 Responses to The Re-Greening

    1. Stunning. Absolutely stunning. This must be Heidi’s most accomplished if most urgent piece yet: no mean feat to rework a literary classic whose very title is as much a shorthand for despair as Munch’s ‘The Scream’ and turn it into a manifesto to face the most pressing issue of our time. And what a move of genius to append Claire’s review, which becomes by itself an important part of that manifesto. As a child of the Seventies, tormented by such films as ‘Frogs’ and ‘Long Weekend’ with their views of what lies in store if Mother Nature finds we humans too objectionable, I hope Claire will not be offended by my appending to her last sentence – which, though an atheist, I do appreciate – the words attributed to the dying H.G. Wells: “I told you so, you damned fools!”

      Comment by Mark Hyne on 13 June, 2021 at 10:58 am
    2. Yes, this is an incredible achievement on Heidi’s part. Raw, passionate and painful. It needs reading over and over, and out loud; and at gatherings. It needs sharing.

      Comment by roselle angwin on 16 June, 2021 at 11:59 am
    3. Hugely impressive and richly resonant. Heidi has poured her whole soul into this work. The despair is absolutely warranted, but the hope is vital too if people are to be encouraged to take action and not give up.

      Comment by Sharon Howe on 28 June, 2021 at 8:03 am
    4. Thank you so much for all these wonderful comments. Here’s to a kinder, fairer, more inclusive ethics that encompasses all beings – and for the planet’s healing and re-Greening.

      Comment by Heidi Stephenson on 29 June, 2021 at 8:53 am
    5. This is a study in itself and can stand alone as epic, mind opening.
      Claire Palmer’s Review helps tremendously.
      I am reminded, thankful to be isolated in a low-population area with a couple streams.Safe for now in a tiny way.

      Comment by Edward P Johnston on 2 July, 2021 at 5:21 pm

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