When I was a kid – soft-sided purple lunchbox
and star-patterned leggings days – there was a countdown clock
at the exit of the rainforest area in the Central Park Zoo.
It was the number of acres of Amazon left,
and it was endlessly ticking down.
A demented New Year’s Eve, a specific but far-off doom
that now is here.
Some terrible scientific math concludes that as of this year
the Amazon rainforest now emits more carbon than it absorbs.
Too much of it has been razed and converted to soy and livestock
these lungs of the planet now foaming red
We’ve ruined it, and there was so much of it to ruin.
It’s the vastness of the crime, as well as the evil of it.
This summer William Shatner went to space
and all he felt was grief.
The kind a kid feels when she realizes death
is not only something that happens to her mother’s friend with cancer
when she sees in red blinking flipdots
the exact amount of earthly bounty there is left,
that it is knifingly finite and decreasing every day.
And it makes her think of her father, ironically
the way the harm never abated, the bullheadedness and blithe inability
to say I’m sorry I hurt you and mean it. To say I regret what I did
or I will do whatever I have to to make it right.
The rainforest can’t send back performative, shitty birthday presents.
The rainforest can’t say don’t text me or call me anymore.
The rainforest can’t take comfort in knowing the beef ranchers
don’t have to be invited to its wedding,
can’t feel the confidence of its choices, and even if it could
very little would be okay, because there is still the cloud of smoke
and ash and acres of charred dead ground.
Captain Kirk peers through the plexi and feels it, the shuddering in the lungs,
because we are still the only inhabitable speck in the cold and dark. And it will never be okay
that I don’t know the feeling of a dad having my back, never heard him say
you deserve better in any way I could have believed
You deserved better, orchids and jaguars and river dolphins
and all you plants and bugs no human ever catalogued
fungi and frogs and spider monkeys
capybaras, toucans and sloths
I’m a pointless person in a pointless era watching from the nosebleed seats
while we wreck something that ought to have nourished us
that could have healed at any time if we had heeded its cries
and even now I can barely hear my own voice
force out stop. enough. no.
Chiara Di Lello is a writer and educator. She delights in public art, public libraries, and getting improbable places by bicycle. For a born and raised New Yorker, she has a surprisingly strong interest in beekeeping. Find her recent poems in Variant Lit, Whale Road Review, Across the Margin, and others. Find her on Twitter @thetinydynamo.
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