Letter to America by Charles Goodrich

One Poem

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Orpheus Intercedes

Oh tall tree in the ear!
…a new beginning, beckoning, change appeared.
   — Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus

Appalled by what he wouldn’t hear,
I planted a tree in the President’s ear.
I downloaded sonnets and songs to his phone
and enchanted his daughters with my lyre.

And suddenly the President began to hear
birds twittering everywhere.
He tasted the rising ocean’s foam
and began to sweat the atmosphere.

As the roots of the tree grew into his brain
his mountains of loot turned to soil.
He ordered more solar panels installed on the roof.
He divested the country from oil.

              O pure insurance! O bottom line!
              O fear for his children’s insolvency.
              The President went mad for peace
              and a steady state economy.

Then his furious minions turned on their boss.
They tore his arms from his chest.
They scattered his hair on the White House lawn.
Pigeons wove it into their nests.

No human is more than a passing song.
The President has played his part.
The tree in his ear grew tall and set seed.
Now the whole country is overgrown by art.




Charles GoodrichCharles Goodrich’s most recent books are A Scripture of Crows (poetry) and the edited anthology Forest Under Story: Creative Inquiry in an Old-Growth Forest. He serves as director for the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word.

Read nonfiction by Charles Goodrich previously appearing in Terrain.org: “Long-Term Ecological Reflections: Art among Science among Place” (with Frederick J. Swanson), “Stretching Attention: Long-Term Science and Creative Writing,” and “Four Dispatches from the Interface.”

Header image of bird courtesy Pixabay. Photo of Charles Goodrich by Kapa Korobeinikov. Rilke quote translated by Stephen Mitchell.


Terrain.org is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, art, commentary, and design since 1998.