Salut Henri

Yesterday in the last sun before Henri
not a scorcher but a steamer
the maiden voyage of the new lawnmower
and then out back tacking plastic over spongy windows
donating blood to the swarm, before

friends gathered in the hot gloom
of dissipating empire:
eggplant, sweet peppers, summer squash,
ground beef and chicken shawarma,
in plodding silence rimmed with exhaustion.

“Have you been taking measures
to weatherize the farm?”
“Not much you can do. Row cover just beats ’em up more.
Tomorrow’s going to be a nail-biter.”

I am one who has hunkered.
I have watched centenarian pines
uprooted under the sky’s pale fury
I have shivered and cursed the wind
and begged it to stop.

And now Henri arrives, dragging his feet
in fits and bouts and warnings and stress naps.
There is some flooding in Rhode Island.
We’ll see what we receive here in Western Mass.

Let my daughter sleep. Let my son sleep.
Let my wife sleep. Let me draw two elephants.

Until we are all ranting like the soap bottle
Let the wind remind us
Everything depends
on everything
symbiosis
is not some rare quirk
but everywhere.
So I remain the partisan of river otter
standard bearer of bumblebee
acolyte of anemone
and such thoughts blunt the fear a bit
but only a bit.

I am not afraid of Henri.
But I don’t like this trajectory.

How many people know that elephants have
and need culture? That they pass knowledge
down the generations
and that any rupture in the chain
means something much like death?

Henri never took anyone’s language
Henri didn’t burn down half of Borneo for palm oil
Henri didn’t sell ivory and tiger penis
Henri didn’t obliterate habitats
murder the wolf and bison
eviscerate the earth
despoil the water
choke the air with soots of progress

I am not afraid of Henri
I’m afraid of you and me.

Published by Jeff Diteman

I am a literary translator and scholar working with French, Spanish, and English.

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