Monday, July 16, 2007

D-Day for the environment

It's time for a real excerpt.
This is from Shard Three [codename: beaten] and it details the havoc wreaked by The Flood. This could be a good place to launch into a disputation about the Ark movie currently playing in the theaters, Evan Almighty. That's not for today, though; I'll just post the verse.
Hope it's not too effen long.

Throughout the Beasts' peregrinations, the skies
made them apprehensive. A soft glow caressed
the mountaintops and tallest limbs of stunted Trees.
Lightning touched a Giraffe's horns. He toppled;
his widow turned to seek an alternate,
yet his heart revived and he regained his feet.
The sky cleared its throat; resulting hail
brought low the shrubs and baby Trees.
The world was rendered in a dark palette --
the light diffused, a king banished, hiding
in the vents of clouds, glinting on bushes and stones.
The world a play, the Beasts an audience forced
upon the stage, watching storms convene.
Springs below them bubbled upwards, to bury the land;
the sky developed along a path of bitter rage,
as if the Land had deeply offended. Winds
swept the earth like minions sent to the fore.
Birds that fled their flailing perches were touched
by lightning's fingertip or brutally concussed
between the meatless palms of thunder's hands.
Waves of rain like tall Grass in the wind
grew upon the land, rejoining itself.
The water nibbled, chewed, and sucked
the soil, annexing, adding to its strength. Was it one
or many? Army made of millions or mass
amoebic? Water played leapfrog down canyons,
formed columns, made a flowing host, subsuming
the world, aided by forces that spoke with the storm.
A thousand streams burst upward; their stones mixed
with hail descending. The many worlds
that make The World perished in their fashions: deserts
drank their death; tumbleweeds flew before
the damp winds o'er plains and high rangelands.
Along the banks of rivers, supple Willows
essayed to bend and thus appease the gale,
but flowing water, overweening, stole
the motes of earth from out the smallest roots.
Bereft of their foundations, they toppled, weeping.
Immense jungle Trees came down as well,
despite their buttress roots. The scenes bespoke
of sudden invasion from a host that knew
the victory that comes without resistance.
The sluicing killer raped the upland meadows;
With boneless hands the cataracts birthed upon
the level, fertile expanses seized that good
and topmost soil. Bushes flew, and Flowers
were ripped to shreds. The fragrant Herbs
in simple gardens keened. Along the sides
of lustrous mountains, grim, arcing scythes
that gained speed felled stands of thick Bamboo.
Trees flew from earth, struck by an infinite blackjack,
cold and weighted with passive trunks become
broom-straws wrought into weapons, sweeping clean
the world. Grass-stems piped tinny screams and joined
a soup of matter. Thus the round body
went through its convulsions. As befell the plants,
so the roaring waves found the Beasts,
whose very screams of shock killed them:
into open mouths expressing chagrin flowed water
that filled their lungs -- the few who'd not died
at once lost their lives in one of many other ways.
Coyote, famed for ingenuity, now found
himself short of tricks. His flailing limbs
did nothing to prolong his life. The tiny Owls
nesting in Cactus trees chirped forlornly
as their homes toppled, the water exploring all
the little byways therein. Rattlesnakes heard
the waves from afar, pounding the arid floor.
Lifting noisy tails, the Snakes warned
whatever had dared challenge them; they died
striking the shape of water that overcame
them. Seals and well-blubbered Walrus tried
to navigate, but wind and surf combined
to smash them against the rocky shores. All
were killed: the Snails in temperate gardens; fast
and garish Lizards hidden in jungle leaves;
Cheetahs racing across veldt; Penguins sliding
on bellies as icebergs clashed around them.
Like the meat of soft fruit beneath a thumb,
the world's flesh slewed and yawed. Indeed,
the very dirt itself became a rainbow
of disordered silt; an ocher toy that spun
in spirals; a gauzy mist; a vast ghost.
The land, submerged, disresembled what
it had been before. Most regions were consumed
in mud's myriad grades. The former seas,
subsumed, held jumbled life: the Dolphins, Whales,
and sundry Fish surprised by moving surf
were snapped in half, and died terrified by the storm's dim
reflection, and smaller things encased in thick
armor, afraid and yet determined to celebrate,
for the storm met with their approval.
The streaming sheets of rising silt buried
Oyster beds, overwhelmed fields
of Grass Eels, and confused the Rock Lobsters
that walked in single file; they broke their holds
upon each others' tails and scuttled each
to safety. At first the Fish refused to stir;
the stones ground against each other like teeth
before the boulders tumbled by the storm crushed
many who'd gathered beneath; their pulped bodies made
the water thick. Yet those that fled fared no better.
Yet in certain places, due to slopes
and subtle gradients of the land, the water's flow
had taken like a gentle lover, not
a rapist, engulfing slowly; these spoke of peace,
as if preserved in crystal. The flood had been
a peaceful despot, the Beasts and Plants euthanized,
the land pacified without a mark of damage.
Where certain forest acres hung suspended,
and stilled currents kept the motes of seed
and leaf from drifting throughout the drowned woods.
Beneath a raging storm was calm, and when
at length the sun would return, after the span
of storm, the light would shine in long shafts of gold.
At length the bits of matter slowly calmed,
and lapped the base of a hill. Those that approached
endured the small fists that hammered them
and therefore couldn’t appreciate the scene.

One reason to post this now: last night I saw a really good WWII movie, "When Trumpets Fade." What a great story, like Shakespeare and the Iliad and Middle Earth and a Documentary all in one. It concerns the Hurtgen Forest battle, not D-Day, but it got me thinking and besides I'd described the above passage to Jo as reminscent of D-Day as seen in "Saving Private Ryan."

I'd suppose that the day the asteroid hit -- the one that supposedly killed off the dinosaurs -- would've been like D-Day. These days not much happens in a single day that could be called 'cataclysmic.' On the other hand, in the total time-scale of Life on Earth, the last few hundred years isn't much; we've arisen and changed things in the blink of an eye, relatively speaking. But it may seem that from our point of view we haven't been doing all that much. Sure, we lose a lot of rain forest, and for specific populations [or even entire species] a few acres of jungle falling is like the apocalypse. But in the bigger picture it's death by degrees. Reminds one of that old chestnut about the frog in the pot; throw him in boiling water and he'll bolt, but turn the heat up gradually and he'll stay and die.
Not a bad metaphor for our approach...

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