Earth Day (April 22, 1970)

Ten years ago, we chased

Each other down on Hudson Street,

Arm-wrestled in the White Horse

Over rounds of beer.

Ten years ago, the Beats

Were tarnished, but still visible.

We’d see them at the Cedar Bar

And tasted luster in decay.

We all had spiral notebooks then,

And littered all the avenues

With jottings toward the absolute.

We talked about Albert Camus

Each day. Each day we shed

Our mufflers, socks, devices

For rebellion. We would shed

Our skins.

                                Today, in Maryland

I check my house for crevices

And howl at the resistance

Of hard acid ground

To take my seeds

In the newspaper I read

Where kids are kneeling

In the streets and wading 

In the streams, their fingers

Rooting out, if only incrementally,

Earth’s bunions.  In fever,

This Spring, they have given

The old globe a new legend

Of itself. In an enormous ring

Of hands the earth is set.

Note: This poem, written on the occasion of the first Earth Day, found its way into print about 16 months later in the Autumn 1972 issue of Four Quarters, published by La Salle College (now University). Perhaps wisely, I never included it in any of my collections. What strikes me today, over 40 years after it was originally published, is how early I had developed the retrospective habit — in this case requiring me to look back 10 years.

In any case, the inspiration of Earth Day still moves me. It’s important to be reminded of our responsibility of stewardship.

Get outside, give thanks, and do something good for our planet. 

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