Love Poem to Our EarthLindi NolteWelcome
come on in
take off your shoes
I’d like to tell you a story
I was born in Rustenburg
grew up as a barefoot kid in South Africa
raised by a mom and dad
who fixed my eyes on the living world around me as though it was that exactly
so I spent my days
checking its pulse digging for bugs
jumping from trees
skipping through grass
I went to bed with mud under my nails splinters in my feet
twigs in my hair
and texture in my dreams
the first love of my life
was a Frangipani tree in our backyard it sweat the sweetest nectar
it wasn’t tall at all
but it was proud
and it knocked the wind out of me whenever I saw it dancing in a storm
the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen move before the hands of trees
with joy outstretched
and the beauty stole the breath
right out of my chest
the first love of my life
was a tree born from this world
this living world my parents fixed my eyes on which is why I blame
them that I became a poet it is their fault entirely that I am here
with this clumsy but full-hearted attempt
at a love poem to our planet
this is where poetry is born here
beneath our bare feet
here on this small speck of brilliant blue light travelling through endless
here on this impossibly rare breathing sphere here
in the Kruger National Park
I am sitting on my father’s lap
small enough to bounce on his knee cheek to cheek
we are watching the stars
the boerewors sausage sizzles on the fire hyena’s laugh in the distance
and Africa’s air is thick this evening
my father is staring just above
the branch of the Wag-’n-bietjie
there he whispers, see
the Southern Cross
a constellation visible only in this hemisphere
I whisper in return
as though the stars are skittish
and might run away if they hear us calling their names
I squint hard
determined to see what is yanking at the edges of my father’s lips
what is causing his breath to slow
his eyes to glow
his brow to wrinkle
what thing hanging in the darkness
can create in man this rapture
I have to know
where I repeat
he takes my hand
rests it upon his
and together we take aim at distant light
like Orion hunting in the night
we search
then my telescopic lenses focus
the veil is lifted
and the constellation appears
wow spills from my tongue
like a fountain pen exploding onto a page nearly ruining the silence with
its ecstasy
again the beauty steals my breath from my body and the stars
the stars
the stars
are forever stuck in my eyes
years later
my mother and I are in the backyard
gathering rocks and flowers
to build a new home for our pet turtle
she comes to me opens
her hands
like the books she reads
to serenade me to sleep
reveals the story of a Shongololo
a millipede curled into itself
the shape of a shell
the shape of a bird’s-eye view of a hurricane
the shape of a human fingerprint
the shape of a spiral galaxy light years away
the Fibonacci sequence gifted to me in my mother’s palm
she places the millipede on the grass it unwinds and surfs across the green look she says
each foot is a relay racer
each foot passes a baton
before the one in front of it can move on
we are connected
inextricably linked by the fibres of our being we need each other she
folding her hands
like she is closing a book
and that
is the moral of the millipede’s story
this is my theory
surrendering my breath to beauty
is not just vital to my poetry
it is my duty as a citizen in our aching and distracted society to resist the
spread of cynicism and fear
to say no
I refuse to further darken this world by adding to its misery
and instead
to watch the stars to run barefoot to write poetry
is an act of resistance is an act of love
I know I’m just a stranger
making the case for something
that seems whimsical and trivial
but the beauty of this earth is not just something nice to look at it is an
essential source from which to tap energy
to revitalize our desire
to fight for a better future
so when the earth offers you a moment of beauty in the form of a
arching its spine across a clear blue sky
or the moon waxing
spilling slivers of silver light onto black oceans or dandelion stems
letting go of their seeds
to watch them drift away in a breeze
or birds throat singing symphonies
a river snaking through reeds
searching for the elusive sea
or a mountain sheltered in fog a
constellation springing forth from the abyss
when beauty comes to you like this surrender every last bit of your
breath to it
let it sweep you away
let your ego retreat from your soul
let your body strip down to the animal
let it stun you
seize you
mesmerize you
until you are still to the core transfixed by its force
it goes before it’s gone grab it by its tail pull it into view look at
its face know it by its name it is poetry
it is art
it is music
it is alive
this world
is so so so alive let’s not forget
and you
you do not exist as a mere observer of the art but as a brush stroke on the
same canvas you are inside of the frame
fragment of the whole
stanza of the poem
star in a constellation
foot of a millipede
we are connected and
we need each other
we all have but a short breath between our birth and our death
should we not spend it well
should we not spend it protecting
this impossibly rare, beautiful temporary home should we not spend it
proudly passing the baton to the next generation and on
we must do what we can with what we have while we are here
this is what I have
this poem
and these bare feet
planted firmly on this belief: our breath is best spent on love.