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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, November 15, 2016.
About this Poem 

“In cataloguing the harmful effects of man’s impact on Earth from both a historical and scientific perspective, George Perkins Marsh, diplomat, scholar, and writer from Vermont, effectively launched the environmental movement as we know it today. His was the first and loudest cry to call attention to deforestation, over-fishing, and soil erosion, among other abuses, which led to the founding of the National Forest System and the National Park Service, signed into existence by an Act of Congress on August 25, 1916.”
—Major Jackson

Song as Abridged Thesis of George Perkin Marsh’s Man and Nature

(Poem on the Occasion of the Centenary of the National Park Service)

The pendulous branches of the Norway spruce slowly move
as though approving our gentle walk in Woodstock,
and the oak leaves yellowing this early morning
fall in the parking lot of Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller. 
We hear beneath our feet their susurrus
as the churning of wonder, found, too, in the eyes of a child
who has just sprinted toward a paddock of Jersey cows.
The fate of the land is the fate of man.

Some have never fallen in love with a river of grass
or rested in the dignity of the Great Blue Heron
standing alone, saint-like, in a marshland nor envied
the painted turtle sunning on a log, nor thanked as I have,
the bobcat for modeling how to navigate dynasties of snow,
for he survives in both forests and imaginations
away from the dark hands of developers and myths of profits.
The fate of the land is the fate of man.

Some are called to praise as holy, hillocks, ponds, and brooks,
to renew the sacred contract of live things everywhere,
the cold pensive roamings of clouds above Mount Tom,
to extol silkworm and barn owls, gorges and vales,
the killdeer, egret, tern, and loon; some must rest
at the sandbanks, in deep wilderness, by a lagoon,
estuaries or floodplain, standing in the way of the human storm:
the fate of the land is the fate of man.
 

Copyright © 2016 by Major Jackson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 15, 2016, this poem was commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Imagine Your Parks grant.

Copyright © 2016 by Major Jackson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 15, 2016, this poem was commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Imagine Your Parks grant.

Major Jackson

Major Jackson

Major Jackson is the author of Roll Deep (W. W. Norton, 2015), Holding Company (W. W. Norton, 2010), Hoops (W. W. Norton, 2006), and Leaving Saturn (University of Georgia, 2002).

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poem

I have not disappeared.
The boulevard is full of my steps. The sky is
full of my thinking. An archbishop
prays for my soul, even though
we only met once, and even then, he was
busy waving at a congregation.
The ticking clocks in Vermont sway

back and forth as though sweeping

poem
          1.

When you have forgotten (to bring into 
   Play that fragrant morsel of rhetoric, 
Crisp as autumnal air), when you 
   Have forgotten, say, sun-lit corners, brick 
   Full of skyline, rowhomes, smokestacks, 
Billboards, littered rooftops & wondered 
What bread wrappers reflect of our hunger
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