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(I first published an earlier draft of Ah Wilderness in Peng Poets e-zine, summer 1997. I’m nearly finished with the highly recommended book, The Overstory, and so I decided to take another look at the poem and then extended it with the dissolution of form of the poem meant to mirror the dissolution of our society moving at last into prose but then, hopeful with the seed of form returning. I realize poetry is not everyone’s cup of tea. One reason I like it is that its dancing always on that same razor edge where life itself does its dance: chaos and regularity; change and stability).

scenic view of lake in forest

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Ah, Wilderness!

The words may well connote a false un-blurring
A fear, a chill — not from frozen stone alone
Or lake wind’s sweep; but from the urgent stirring
Of some soul still hiding restless in our bone.

Curse not the thorns of tasty blackish berry;
They keep fruit safe from claws less clever.
Curse not how swift the prey, how very wary;
They shaped our brain; & helped us know forever.

Curse not the winter’s churlish wind unkind
Or burning hot dry summer’s cinnamon sun.
They invented beautiful raiment through our mind
And taught us numbers soaring far beyond one.


Curse not the change of season; or the suddenly sliding slope –
Unpredictable now and in the future as ever always
They make us search for patterns far beyond our scope of grope.
Ah Wilderness!

You are me as seen in Darwin’s mirror of minutes and hours,

And days of ways taken and untaken & lead us here at last.

We strive to take it all and make it all, all ours, all ours!

Churning every fragrant flower and pine to dust,

We must! We lust! We must! We lust!
We don’t have time for this and that.

We want everything now and that’s that!

air air pollution climate change dawn

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And if in time all wilderness is bleak and dead,

Our bodies too shall wither and die and by and by

Our souls shall be but number: grey, unloved, unfed.

Asphalt, plastic, concrete & glass. None will die

Because in our endless war on nature, we are all “Undead.”

The Zombieland: machines gone mad; machines gone bad.

Swaths of humanity wishing to meld to macabre, merciless machinery!

abstract barbed wire black white black and white

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Life is what works! Life is constant change and innovation. But it’s been working for over four billion years! Look around you! It not only works! It’s marvelous! Machines don’t smell like that. Machines don’t look so beautiful as that. Machines don’t sound as melodious. Machines may be used to magnify malicious malignities if we let them.

Life is cooperative and interconnected and everywhere at once dancing on a razor’s edge between chaos and regularity. Machines are built to be efficient and effective and just tolerably presentable enough to be purchased — purchased by people who typically do not have to deal with the machine day in and day out. What do they care whether the machine is loud or smells bad or ruins your hands or explodes every so often or pollutes whole towns or scares away all the birds or kills every fish in the stream and every frog and that more trees will have to be cut down to feed it and more land raped to oil it?

Life is the invention of Love yet Love requires Life. (Maybe that’s why Love created Life; so it would have a way to express itself). Machines can be built to help save lives. Other machines are designed to kill lives. A machine that’s designed to kill lives never decides, “You know what? I never signed up to shoot peaceful protestors. That sucks and it’s anti-American. I quit.” At best, machines are amoral.

What to think of people who want to destroy life and replace it with a strict unmoving hierarchy with a life-hating king at the top? Don’t they see that they would not truly be alive in such an arrangement? They would not “decide” or “dream” or “change” or “love” or anything else without the permission of someone or some rule who knows nothing about how they really feel. And doesn’t care. Do you?

woman raising her hands

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To destroy all wilderness means humanity would be signing its own death warrant.

The attempt to replace life, which we know works, with machine will eventually fail and fall and take damn near all of humanity with it over that cliff of ever-lasting greed.

Ah, Wilderness.


Ah, Wilderness.


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