THE HALL LIGHT
My brother was scared with the hall light off, and I
was scared with it on. In those bulbs burned a deadly sun
searing through the ozone hole. Beneath my bed I heard
the gnashing teeth of hungry polar bears. My mother said
be a good big sister, just shut my door if the light was bright.
So I held bake sales for the rainforest. Read books
that warned of Styrofoam cups and aerosol cans
and perfect apples that meant more pesticide.
Poured vinegar on spider plants for the science fair,
experimenting not with acid rain’s effects but how
to make them feel my fear. Liam Johnson drank my vinegar
and I told the teacher what I’d observed
of wilt and consumption.
My son wakes from dreams of wolves, my daughter cries
at paper skeletons hung upon the door. Too young, the Earth
is round, it’s where we live but also spindled ball--there
that’s us, that tiny dot. Where are volcanoes? Penguins?
Where does it never snow? Look, purple boot,
green bean archipelago. And yes, it is fragile,
splits at its equator seam, two cardboard shells.
How much of the ball is blue. For my children’s sake
I buy individually packaged Goldfish crackers. Bananas
all the way from the pink fish that licks Lake Titicaca.
Our destination too far for little legs, perfect apples are abandoned
browning moons on a petrochemical plate.
But someday they’ll understand
we fucked it up for them, for 10 minutes of sleep or quiet,
because I kept all the want of childhood and not enough
belief in my own power. Everyone, now, is scared
and comforted by LED, fast vegan burger, rebate and switch
recycled distraction offsets. Everyone knows
the Arctic ice is tinkling in the bottom of an empty glass.
And I lie in the dark and wish for the hall light,
that old sweet fear.
Green, because the trees. Because the rainforest’s canopy, light as long as history. Because the
vine, the moss, the Honduran brook frog. But it could have easily been go blue. For clean sky,
ocean swaddle. The whales. The rainy day, minor sax notes of loss. O don’t let this love end.
Can’t go on livin’ without you. Ten years, they say, to save our worlds. The ones that quiver on
the surface of this sphere, the one of fingers sliding on guitar strings, of cotton sundress, white
lines of novel spine, the one in which my daughter’s hair is fine as dandelion spun to seed, and
she turns on water just to make a rainbow in the spray. So go blue, go green, go kelly, go sage.
Go green with envy of the ones still in denial. Go to the dark-veined forest. Go rogue, go feral.
Because the fern, because the kakapo parrot. And when the sky is green from fire, go to the ends
of Earth, with rinsed out soup cans and plastic made of corn. And if you don’t believe that this is
what it takes, let’s find a way to mix the ocean with the sun.
Originally published in Deriving, University of Alberta Press 2021
Jennifer Bowering Delisle is the author of Deriving (2021) and The Bosun Chair (2017). Her collection of essays, Micrographia, is forthcoming in 2023. She regularly teaches creative writing and is a board member of NeWest Press. She is a settler in Amiskwaciwâskahikan/Edmonton in Treaty 6. Find her online at www.jenniferdelisle.ca and @jenbdelisle.
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