Poems by Leah Korican

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Kaddish in the Anthropocene Era

by Leah Korican

From Canary Spring 2017

Leah lives and creates in Oakland, California, near the Temescal Creek watershed.

Each day with brittle tongue
even in our grief
we praise the bounty of being:
bowing, nodding, eyes closed.

How should I know
what comes after saying Kaddish?
Aren’t we always answering a question
by asking a question?

I always expect flames and plagues.
You know that Ashkenazi,
child-of-Holocaust-children anxiety?
Now 97 percent of scientists agree with me.

I see the neighborhood burning
and the smoke choking the bay,
hanging heavier than fog,
releasing its carbon into the atmosphere.

I read about the moose
dying all over North America,
killed by thousands of itchy ticks.
Terrible way to go.

The moose is not intimidated by bears,
and their size makes everyone feel small
except the ticks, who feel like a moose
is a crowded buffet.

Dried fur flakes off and the hide
shines dull white;
ghost moose wanders
in the dark woods till it falls.

I could say Kaddish all day for all the creatures
going extinct or threatened or vanishing.
That, along with all those Starbucks,
is a hallmark of our age.

I click links to send petitions
and share the ghost moose story on Facebook
above the cake fail and below the obit
for a famous rocker.

Should I praise the glory of it all?
Feel acceptance and peace?
Or should it be anger
like a prophet in the temple

smashing things, yelling, gesturing,
wailing, crying, tearing clothes?
What is the proper response
to the news of the death of the North American Moose?

We don’t miss the ancient predators.
We exterminated the dire wolf
and sabre tooth tiger.
Would you want one for a neighbor?

Still once the food chain
is tangled and twisted
and broken, it’s going to get ugly:
roast rat, ticks on toast.
What are the proper words
to pray, bows and bends to make
on this day
with this news?

Do we just keep saying
these tuneless words of praise,
this ageless plea for peace,

a question
we can’t help answering
with a question?

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