The River’s Blood Turned to Stone

Lake Oroville, California

Lake Oroville, California

Is the California drought finally awakening—or more accurately, reawakening–the GOP to the reality of climate change? According to Dana Milbank of The Washington Post, “climate change deniers are in retreat.”

No so much in retreat, unfortunately, that they plan to stop resisting President Obama’s attempts to decrease coal emissions. Not so much that they will embrace the carbon swap legislation that was once a Republican idea. But at least most of those who will be running for president no longer sound quite so disbelieving.

My father was very concerned about global warming, and in the past I’ve shared his poems about how we are destroying the earth. Today I post one of his fables which, while it doesn’t address the issue directly, can be made to apply.

That’s because it posits a contrast that Californians especially will appreciate: we witness a struggle between the “green and naked body” of a mystical, life-affirming river and “the great black bloated Sun.” As the fable plays itself out, the water lily is enamored with the powerful sun, which we can associate with science and technology. Little does it realize that “the flush of April rain” is central to its continued existence.

When the river and the sun are in balance, all can live happily together, a ménage a trois. But by taking our water, and our atmosphere, for granted, we are rapidly squandering an irreplaceable gift.

The River the Sun and the Water Lily

By Scott Bates

A River once loved a Water Lily
Of all the Lillies she loved but one
Enfolding her green and naked body
In the flush of the April rain
     She had her in her blood
     But the Lily loved the Sun

The River slept with the Water Lily
Where Cattails flogged the senile Moon
Till their Capuchin shadows danced black masses
Between the Cypress knees
     Till the Limpkin shrieked at dawn
     And the Lily stretched in the Sun

And then they got drunk on the April weather
In the marsh together ménage a trois
And the River lay on her back and shivered

With fever etc.
     While the Lily played with a Water Spider
     And laughed and laughed at the Sun

The River died with the Water Lily
Of all the Lilies she died with one
When the Sun in heat destroyed the marshes
Her blood was turned to stone
     And he saw what he had done
     The great black bloated Sun


Other Scott Bates poems on environmental devastation

Koch Inc: Oligarchs of Order and Ordure

Everyperson’s Environmental E-Car

Mama Grizzly vs. Real Grizzlies

An Environmentalist’s Revenge Fantasy

Dr. Dolittle vs. the Oil Spill: A Fantasy

The Animals Are Trying to Warn Us

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  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

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