Saturday, April 22, 2017

PAD Day 22: A Fable, and a Poem by Jane Hirshfield

Happy Earth Day! Today is also the March for Science, which is in response to the current regime's anti-science stance. I'm proud to say all four of my children and my daughter-in-law are participating. We get stuck with babysitting duty, but I guess that means we are indirectly doing our part.

Today's dual prompts from Poetic Asides and NaPoWriMo: (1) write a fable, and (2) write a "georgic" poem, which is a poem that deals with agriculture, particularly the wise use of the land. So here is my "Georgic fable", which may be really more prose with line breaks than an honest-to-goodness poem.

The Farmer Ant and the Corporate Ant

A farmer ant and a corporate ant were arguing
about how to best use the land for their colony.

"I see this land as an opportunity," said the corporate ant,
"to build the tallest, most luxurious anthill
that our species has ever seen."

"No, we need to plan for the future," said the farmer ant.
"We need to grow and gather food for our winter stores.  
And some of us need to herd and milk our aphid cattle."

"But wouldn't you be proud," said the corporate ant,
"to live in a high-rise anthill that was the envy of all antdom?"

"Absolutely not," said the farmer ant, testily.
"We need to look at the big picture and use our land wisely.
We need to use our resources efficiently and plan
for the hard winters ahead. Don't you remember
what happened to the grasshopper?"

"The grasshopper was a fool!" snapped the corporate ant.
"He had no business sense. Tell you what - we'll put it to a vote,
and see what the colony as a whole wants."

So they agreed, and a few weeks later there was a vote.
The majority of the colony agreed that the huge new anthill
was a more exciting plan than continuing to farm the land.
Soon a magnificent anthill rose into the sky, the biggest ever built.
The corporate ant was proud because his name was emblazoned
on the side of the anthill, and happy because the project made him rich.

But the colony didn't last long. They spent so much energy and ant-hours
on construction that they forgot to take care of their land and food supply.
Most of them died of starvation that winter. The farmer ant
and the few survivors limped off to find another colony to join,
and the anthill crumbled to dust within a year because the corporate ant
built it with shoddy non-union workmanship.

The moral of the story:  Do not let hubris and greed ruin your future. 

And here is a bonus poem from my brilliant friend Jane Hirshfield, who will be reading it at the March for Science today. This was recently published in the Washington Post.

On the Fifth Day
by Jane Hirshfield

On the fifth day
the scientists who studied the rivers
were forbidden to speak
or to study the rivers.

The scientists who studied the air
were told not to speak of the air,
and the ones who worked for the farmers
were silenced,
and the ones who worked for the bees.

Someone, from deep in the Badlands,
began posting facts.

The facts were told not to speak
and were taken away.
The facts, surprised to be taken, were silent.

Now it was only the rivers
that spoke of the rivers,
and only the wind that spoke of its bees,

while the unpausing factual buds of the fruit trees
continued to move toward their fruit.

The silence spoke loudly of silence,
and the rivers kept speaking,
of rivers, of boulders and air.

Bound to gravity, earless and tongueless,
the untested rivers kept speaking.

Bus drivers, shelf stockers,
code writers, machinists, accountants,
lab techs, cellists kept speaking.

They spoke, the fifth day,
of silence.

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