Old Roads, New Stories: A Literary Series
I do have a question, and I’ll get to it right after this poem and four observations:
He Starts His Morning with Coffee,
then flips the news on
to hear what the satellites are saying.
They’re up there in orbit
where the rockets shot them years ago:
Some kind of protest again,
parents pissed off at a School Board,
yelling and stomping with their picket signs—
“Can’t spell science without S-I-N”—
and, of course, that’s pretty irrefutable.
So he prays that God will punish the doctors,
stoke up the coals under Darwin.
“And maybe,” he adds,
“if there’s some time left over,
send another earthquake to Caltech.”
Then he hops in the shower,
but the water’s cold, and he’s sad.
I like dramatic irony. It’s fun, it’s funny, and the audience knows which character doesn’t get it. But while that’s helpful in poems and plays, it isn’t in life. In life, you wish the person would get a clue, wise up, feel internally smacked by an epiphany. In life, you wish that they would trip and splat in what Aristotle called anagnorisis, which isn’t mud. It’s a recognition that they were wrong and want to start over, beginning this time with the knowledge that they possess now. How great would that be?
Instead, we’re stuck with people who just persist.
Take the place where I live—Utah—and this year’s legislative session. Back in February, we heard something hopeful for a minute. Representative Andrew Stoddard (Dem.) introduced an air quality bill to cut bromine and chlorine emissions. It’s a good idea. The winter inversions here trap smog so dense that you can’t see the mountains from the valley, smog we breathe. So it’s a good idea.
The only ones who might object, you’d think, would be the U.S. Magnesium Corporation, but they didn’t. Nope, no squad of Headlock Lobbyists was speedily dispatched. In fact, “Tom Tripp, U.S. Magnesium’s Director of Technical Services, told Fox 13, ‘I don’t think the bill is going to change anything [for us]. It’s a minor detail for U.S. Magnesium to report bromine.’” Even so, Representative Tim Jimenez (Rep.) amended the bill, turning it into something that would “order further study,” which is, of course, just codespeak for punting.
There was this one also: Utah House Bill 469, updated by Senator Scott Sandall (Rep.). It nixes the state’s current (not good) regulations on hunting mountain lions and replaces them with an even crappier plan to harvest (not my word for it)—anyway, to “harvest” however many mountains lions all year round, no limits on the death count, and no tag required.
People who know things—university researchers, wildlife biologists, etc.—would have said this is a horrible idea, which is probably why they weren’t consulted. It’s why the legislature did this “with zero public input […] by slipping an amendment into an unrelated bill at the last hour.”
Worst, though, is the non-plan to save the Great Salt Lake. House Majority Leader Mike Schultz (Rep.) had this to say about it on Fox 13: “We need to look at everything under the sun. We’re the fastest growing state in the nation. We can’t just stop growing, right? […] Are there things we can do and can we do a better job shepherding water to the lake? Absolutely. That’s what we need is a balanced approach.”
If what you’re thinking now is What? then you aren’t wrong. For starters, that word-mush isn’t a plan. And then there’s this: One thing “under the sun to look at” has got to be an end to sprawl, but Schultz just assumes that constant growth is a given. I do like the part where we get to be Water Shepherds, but there are water shepherds already; they’re called “rivers.” The problem is that the water gets diverted and doesn’t reach the lake. Plus, we all know that “balanced approach” means “more of the same.”
The common denominator here is dissing science.
Into microphones (which come from science).
In front of TV cameras (more science).
Kitchen refrigerators, microwave popcorn, the vulcanized rubber on the cars we drive, saving a life in a hospital, email requests to make a campaign donation, the lightbulbs and switches in the House and Senate—all of these things are more science.
So, what’s the deal?
Read an interview with Rob Carney appearing in Terrain.org: “The Ocean is Full of Questions.”
Read Rob Carney’s Letter to America in Dear America: Letters of Hope, Habitat, Defiance, and Democracy, published by Terrain.org and Trinity University Press.
Read poetry by Rob Carney appearing in Terrain.org: 6th Annual Contest Finalist, 4th Annual Contest Winner, and Issue 30. And listen to an interview on Montana Public Radio about The Book of Sharks.
Header photo by Gorodenkoff, courtesy Shutterstock.