PS…Of course I can’t write a poem about howling without Ginsberg’s “Howl” echoing in my mind, and the line that haunts me is “ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe, and now you’re really in the total animal soup of time.” That is the line in the poem that best spans the sixty-five years of its life and my life and speaks to where we are now. My friends, while you are not safe, I am not safe, while the cities are not safe my small town is not safe, while the earth is not safe none of us is safe and with only eight years left to reconstruct our society and way of life we are all really in the total animal soup of time. So howl, please! Together.
[The text of this sonnet is printed below.]
The wooded hills where I live echo sometimes with coyote howls. Hearing them at night is haunting, but hearing them in the day is alarming—you know then that something is wrong, and you can feel in your gut the threat they face or their grief of loss.
We also hear the prehistoric cry of the pileated woodpecker, or hear its powerful drumming on a hollow tree, and those sounds can also feel haunting or alarming.
Sometimes silence can be even more piercing—the silence on death row when an inmate has been executed.
Far worse is the silence of those who have given up on this world as hopeless when there is still time.
Over the past year we have heard Greta Thunberg and millions of other youth crying “Our house is on fire!” as they watch the clock tick down on our chance to preserve an inhabitable earth. We have maybe eight years to make a change that will require the united will of humanity to accomplish. In a sense we have only until November of 2020 if we fail to change the White House and Senate.
Right now we are hearing the cries and howls of people who have been oppressed and murdered for centuries. You can listen below to one of the most eloquent and powerful by Kimberley Jones, and one of the rawest by Star Wars star John Boyega, and there are millions more to hear in the streets and on the internet.
Nature gives creatures this gift, the ability to translate our grief, rage and life-or-death needs into songs that stir other hearts to empathy and compassion, and create a feeling of oneness that can cross any difference, between races, socio-economic places, even between species. We need that oneness now. We need to be haunted and alarmed on one another’s behalf. We need to be moved to meet our shared life-or-death needs. We need humanity to change, and change fast.
Where Is the Howl?
Coyotes howl their protest song, harsh sun,
the hottest year as long as we’ve kept track.
Too early, acorns drop off one by one,
reminders that this chance will not come back,
and of the howling pain that is to come
and is already felt out on the edge:
high, blighted trees the pileateds drum,
huge ice shelf thunder, sloughing off a wedge.
Of all the haunting signs the most distressing
is humans who refuse to howl or change,
who should be wearing sackcloth and confessing.
The silence on death row is sad and strange,
but now when we could save ourselves it’s wrong.
We need to howl a powerful new song.
copyright 2020 Thomas Cary Kinder