The Last Piece Of Ice Under The Sky
There would be no point in climbing this mountain,
not even to speak to the wise man at its summit.
He has no answers, no solutions. He is merely old,
and that’s no achievement when you live on a mountaintop.
There are two men trapped at the bottom of a deep well.
Were they to assist one another, it is possible they could escape.
Instead they choose to urinate on one another, destroying
their supply of drinkable water and ensuring they remain trapped.
The wise man can see the mouth of the well from where he sits,
because years ago a climber with no money gave him, as payment,
a powerful set of Zeiss Classic 20×60 binoculars, strong enough
to turn a busy colony of ants into a whirling dervish of people.
By the time the climber had reached the base of the mountain,
he’d realized that the binoculars were more valuable than
anything the old man had said, but the thought of re-scaling the peak
turned his stomach to ash and filled his mouth with regret.
Turning northward, the old man can see the last piece of ice under the sky.
Upon it sit two polar bears, and between them on the ice is
the last fish from the water, their final sustenance. Inevitably,
they tear one another in two, rather than the fish, their blood staining the ice.
None of that really happened, did it? asks the filmmaker on the summit.
He’s come to make a documentary about the old man, to record his wisdom
for a decadent, unenlightened age. But the filmmaker is an unbeliever,
refusing to accept what he can see through the camera’s unblinking eye.
The old man smiles and extends the binoculars, offering
the filmmaker a closer look at the world-as-it-is, as it, in fact, must be.
The filmmaker shakes his head sadly, packs his camera back into its case,
and begins the slow climb back to the foot of the mountain.
He reaches the bottom and passes the well where the two men are still trapped,
their lack of drinking water also meaning a lack of urine for their battle.
The filmmaker thinks he hears moaning from the bottom of the well and almost
goes to look. But refusing to believe his ears, he turns and walks away.
ironic, choosing a name
implying distant vision
when the one thing you
can’t do is see
white belly bobs
pointing at the sun
like the face of a flower
or a tree seeking nourishment
but the sun has set
on this day of days
the long night has begun
under a blanket of oil
the Cayuhoga burned
at least thirteen times
oozing not flowing, said Time
magazine with its barrels of ink
the word “gulf” comes from
kolpos, a Greek word meaning
bosom, the chest, the repository
of emotion and intimacy
now we surround the heart
of the world with the heavy ooze
of consumption, the debilitating murk
of driving by yourself with the radio on
nineteen million barrels
each and every day
seven hundred ninety-eight million gallons
each and every day
and that’s just one country
one nation living the dream
the chosen people of a god
who created the dinosaurs
solely to power our factories
propel our cars, fuel our
wildest fantasies, a pornography
of petroleum delights
you can’t get it off unless
you scrape it off with a tool
something no bird can manage
no fish can finagle
it’s like napalm without the fire
a deadly skin that can’t be shed
can’t be burned off
in Los Angeles, in New York,
in New Orleans, in Chicago,
in towns you’ve never visited
in towns I’ll never see
a man, a woman, a kid with
a new license
looks at his sneakers, her bike
the bus schedule
and grabs the keys instead
turns the engine over
hears the oil-fueled explosion
then turns up the radio
While we can and should blame BP and poor government oversight for what’s
happening in the Gulf, it’s important that we not absolve ourselves of
responsibility for this disaster and others like it around the world. In
the United States and throughout the developed world, our dependence on an
oil-fueled, pollutant-rich lifestyle makes it possible for BP to do what
it does. Not just possible, but necessary. I’m as guilty as anyone. In
recent years, I’ve reduced my dependence on cars by using a bicycle for as
many trips as possible. I ride an Xtracycle cargo bike, as does my wife. A
cargo bike allows me to carry people (such as our kids) and things that
would normally be difficult or impossible to transport on a bicycle.
Recently, after several years of trying, I finally went completely
car-free. I donated my car to the local classical music station and I’m
now moving around by bike, on foot, and on mass transit when absolutely
necessary. Sure, transportation is just one part of the equation, but in
the United States it’s a very large part of most people’s contribution to
the degradation of our environment. In this country, 40% of all urban
trips are two miles or less, and 90% of those occur by car. This is
something we can and must change. If you’re interested, you can track my
car-free adventures at http://RocBike.com.
Jason Crane is the host of the The Jazz Session, the online jazz interview show, at http://thejazzsession.com. His first collection of poems, Unexpected Sunlight (FootHills Publishing, 2010), is now available at http://jasoncrane.org/store.