Dainty speckled dog’s tooth violet
leaves poke up from warming soil
through a six-foot strip of muddy
shredded plastic bag,
plastic straws, a root beer can,
caution tape, a bottle top,
a lip gloss tube, old newspapers,
a spray paint can, and one flip-flop.
Two red-bellied woodpeckers
shriek and tap above our heads
as we survey the rushing river
and the garbage on its banks:
plastic lighter, cigarette butts,
chunks of broken Styrofoam,
coffee cups with plastic lids,
a bandage strip, a plastic comb.
Mama goose sits on her nest
amid the evidence of thoughtless
picnickers and fishermen,
hikers, joggers, families:
McDonald’s ketchup packet, wrappers
(Kit-Kat, Slim Jim, Power Shot™,
Cheetos®), plastic bait container,
broken plastic flower pot.
Multicolored shopping bags
flutter from just-budding trees.
Ducks glide past a bobbing bottle,
half a pound of plain cream cheese.
Fish swim under plastic buckets.
Water bottles tip on top
of water bottles ten feet from
a trash container—this must stop!
On and on, the river
carries everything we toss it,
and we toss too much to bear.
Wake up, people!
Don’t you care
what happens to this rushing river,
the gliding ducks,
red bellied woodpeckers?
Wake up and smell the dog tooth violets,
Writing Workout: List Poem
I believe that as teachers, we have not only the opportunity but the responsibility to impress upon our students the importance—and the urgency—of taking care of our environment—not only on Earth Day, but throughout the year. We can study the effects of pollution, we can participate in cleanup efforts, and we can write!
The poem I wrote about the river is a list poem. Begin one of your own (or help your students write theirs) by thinking of a subject or a place you are passionate about. Observe it carefully or remember it and list its important details. Include more than just the list—tell the reader why the details are important. I used rhyme because I liked the singsong, careless feel it implied and I wanted to lighten the heavy message, but your poem doesn't have to rhyme. Speak your mind and make your message clear.
Out and About
On Saturday, April 17, I'll be at Books & Company in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, at 3 p.m. for a reading and signing with Jacqueline Houtman (The Reinvention of Edison Thomas) and Kashmira Sheth (Boys without Names). I'll read Waiting Out the Storm and talk about writing, poetry, and maybe Earth Day. Stop by if you're in the neighborhood!
JoAnn Early Macken