The Day We Added Ecocide To Our Vocabulary
No longer constrained to the lexicon
of activists and free thinkers,
the word spilled onto the barren shores
of our lips. No longer content to bomb cities,
blockade countries, or tell indigenous peoples
theirs is only an imagined community,
the guilt of our disaster attacks an entire ecosystem,
from the invisible plankton suspended in the Gulf
to the surprised citizens sitting at the top
of the food chain in Michigan.
Then came the biggest surprise
that wasn’t a surprise at all.
One by one we learned to name our excuses,
our sour justifications: it doesn’t affect me.
I’m not part of the problem.
The day we added ecocide to our vocabulary
was the same day we put our erasers
to work scrubbing the page clean,
packing our mouths with booms of human hair.
With every soft syllable we restricted
our taxonomic footprint, sealed ourselves
off from the disappearing species with
every dome and cap available.
Our indignation closed like a fist
we shook and shook for days into the emptiness.
Soon enough we loosened our grip,
put the key back into the ignition.
The scope of our responsibility shriveled
like a spider held over an open flame.
Andrew Rihn is the author of several slim volumes of poetry, including Outside the Clinic (Unlikely Stories) and the chapbook The Rust Belt MRI (Pudding House). Online, he can be found at the website Midwestern Sex Talk. In person, he can be found in Canton, OH.