LANGELLE PHOTOGRAPHY

Using the power of photojournalism to expose social, economic and ecological injustice

Posts from the ‘Earth’ category

All photos taken by Orin Langelle in Nicaragua unless noted.

Posoltega, Nicaragua: This tree was uprooted and stuck upside down in the mud after the crater lake of the Las Casitas volcano collapsed during Hurricane Mitch causing a major mudslide that buried entire villages near Posoltega, Nicaragua. The tree marks the mass grave of thousands of people, and the land affected by the mudslide resembles a desert.

The following article was published twenty years ago in ACERCA NOTES when I was the coordinator of ACERCA (Action for Community and Ecology in the Rainforests of Central America). ACERCA’s findings cited climate change as one of the factors that exacerbated the tragedy caused by Hurricane Mitch. Climate change was not on the minds of many people twenty years ago. Little did I know then that climate change would be on so many people’s minds today and actually be recognized as a major threat to life on Earth if systemic changes do not happen economically and politically in the next twelve years.  – Orin Langelle

The Special Report was excerpted from the “Preliminary Report to the Nicaragua Network Environmental Task Force.”

SPECIAL REPORT: HURRICANE MITCH IN NICARAGUA

Environmental Degradation, Deforestation, [Climate Change] Exacerbated Tragedy

by Orin Langelle

From October 25 to November 2, 1998 Nicaragua suffered a full scale disaster with Hurricane Mitch. Action for Community and Ecology in the Rainforests of Central America (ACERCA) called for and organized an environmental justice fact-finding research delegation to the region co-sponsored by Witness For Peace). In the first part of February [1999], the ACERCA-WFP delegation traveled in Nicaragua to get an eye-witness account. The delegation was the first from the United States to look into environmental factors of the hurricane. The following information is from many sources.

Posoltega, Nicaragua: During Hurricane Mitch, Johana Medín and her baby boy were swept away in the torrent of the Las Casitas volcano mudslide. For over 2 kilometers she held on to her baby and saved his life. Other survivors were not so lucky. Some were stuck in the mud for up to six days and had to have their limbs amputated. Others swallowed stomachs full of the mudslide and became sick. There were over 5,000 refugees.

Although Hurricane Mitch was a Category Five Hurricane with winds that ranged from 250-300 kms per hour with intense rain, the Nicaraguan government took no measures to prepare. In actuality, Hurricane Mitch did not hit Nicaragua, but Nicaragua suffered horrendous indirect effects.

Hurricane Mitch exposed in Nicaragua what has been present for many years. Decades of land abuse and environmental neglect magnified the hurricane’s devastating toll in death and damage. A combination of many social, political and economic factors caused the environmental degradation that exacerbated the tragedy. Deforestation played a major role. United States policy toward to Nicaragua contributed to these factors. Other factors include Global Climatic Change. Additionally, the government of Nicaragua ignored many warnings that could have prevented the tremendous loss of human life.

Hurricane Mitch destroyed roads, communications, houses and wells. Raging rivers washed away farmland and many zones were flooded for long periods of time. The damage to agriculture, ranching and human life was unprecedented with thousands dead and tens of thousands homeless.

The hurricane hit the poorest of the poor and will have long-term effects on food production for the entire populace. Seventy-two percent of all that was planted was lost. Small farmers were hit the hardest losing 90% of their beans and 80% of their corn.

Brief Historical Sketch Leading to Mitch

Development and exploitation of resources and people began with the Conquistadors ad has continued to this day.

These children [were] working for 9 Cordobas a day [US$.76 in 1999] picking peanuts in a field in the district of Chinandega, one of the districts hardest hit by Hurricane Mitch. The parents of these children [were] in Costa Rica, trying to earn enough money to send back to Nicaragua so they [did] not lose their lands to the bank. These small producers lost almost all of their crops to the hurricane.

The United States, through financial and military support and intervention, has influenced Nicaragua for many years, from the 1800s to the present. In the 1950s, large cotton export operations flourished in the Pacific, clearing land, ruining soil with monoculture crops and pesticides, and forcing people to move to more marginal lands. Deforestation was rampant. This and other export commodity crops such as coffee, sugar, tobacco and cattle pushed the agricultural frontier toward the eastern rainforests. Behind this was the US sponsored Somoza dictatorship.

A revolutionary government came into power in 1979, inheriting poverty, environmental devastation and debt. The US, unhappy about a government it could not control, took measures to eradicate the new Nicaraguan government which had begun taking drastic measures to alleviate the social and ecological crisis it inherited. After the Sandinistas assumed power in 1979, the US used a “clean up” operation, to eliminate the perceived “socialist threat” throughout Central America. The real purpose of the ‘clean up” was to set up governments in Central America that would be conducive to the neoliberal free market economy. These economic policies force the exploitation of natural resources and people.

The ACERCA delegation worked with the community of Chimaltepe begin a tree nursery. The nursery is a step for sustainability for that community.

Neoliberal policies are directed in part by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank through Structural Adjustment Policies which divert spending from the social sector (health, education, environment) toward debt payment. SAP’s benefit big business and certain government officials involved in those business ventures. At present [1999] Nicaraguan owes over US $46 billion. The US is a major influence in World Bank policy of how much money is loaned and is the only country with the power of an adhoc veto. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the hemisphere, behind Haiti.

Environment Prior to Mitch

Much of Nicaragua prior to Mitch was in an accelerated state of environmental decline.

One hundred thousand hectares per year are deforested. Before Mitch it was estimated that a record 300,000 hectares would be lost in 1998 alone; no one will now know due to Mitch.

Eighty percent of water sources are contaminated. Contamination in the Atlantic region is from mining, the Central region from petrochemicals related to agricultural practices.

Seventy-five percent of rivers in the Pacific region have dried up in the last 30 years due to deforestation and land abuse. There is a tremendous scarcity of water.

Tons of topsoil per hectare are lost each year in the Pacific region. In the dry season winds blow off the topsoil and in the rainy season it washes away.

These loggers were hired by a foreign multinational that was involved in an illegal timber operation.

Deforestation in the Pacific region has led to less rainfall in those areas. Some will become desert zones.

In 1998 there were 15,000 fires in agricultural and forested areas. For three months, Nicaragua appeared to be in flames. The forest fires destroyed vegetation under trees and when Mitch saturated the ground with water, many trees were swept away.

Nicaragua was an ecological disaster waiting to happen. When tree cover was eliminated and crops such as cotton were planted, there was an intense overuse of agricultural chemicals. The soil lost its capacity to hold plant life. Winds caused dust storms and further depleted the soil. Additional, the lack of trees next to rivers could not hold the banks together.

The majority of the land was in the hands of a few people and the poor were forced to move to the agricultural frontier or to survive by degrading the land, soil and forests. This further destabilized the soil. poverty and environmental degradation are intrinsically linked.

When Mitch rained, as much as 40 inches in a three day period, where there was no tree cover and little plant life to slow the rain runoff, sharp surges of water rushed off of mountains and fields into rivers causing flooding and mudslides of unprecedented portions.

Global Climatic Change 

The author and photojournalist, Orin Langelle, covered with dust while documenting the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch. He is in a Russian truck and was photographed by Cliff McCarthy from the Nicaragua Network.

Two of the most important environmental concerns are deforestation and Global Climatic Change.

Global Climatic Change is making is making predictability impossible. Each year severe weather events will come more often. More hurricanes are inevitable. Global Climatic Change will affect Nicaragua (and other countries in Central America) because they do not have the appropriate technologies needed to cope with it like other developed countries.

Responsibility lies with industrialized countries, especially the US. Excessive levels of carbon in the atmosphere and lack of green to absorb the carbon are causing the severe El Niño effects.

Wiwili – Deforestation and Flooding of the Rio Coco

Although only five centimeters of rain fell in the village of Wiwili on the Rio Coco, water in the Rio Coco rose 20 meters washing away 640 houses and affecting 1300 other houses. Deforestation upriver was to blame. The Nicaraguan government was warned about flooding on the upper reaches of Rio Coco but did not notify the people downriver of the upcoming flood.

Las Casitas Volcano

The circumstances surrounding the collapse of the Las Casitas volcano crater lake should indict the government of Nicaragua for gross negligence. At 11:40 am on Friday, October 30, the crater lake of the Las Casitas volcano collapsed causing a mudslide that swept down the side of the mountain careening over small villages in its path killing over 2500 men, women and children.

On Wednesday, October 28, INETER (Nicaraguan Institute for Territorial Studies) warned the government that conditions were becoming unstable throughout Nicaragua for potential mud and landslides. In the village of Posoltega on Thursday, October 29, Mayor Felicita Zeledón alerted the media of those conditions. President Alemán called her an alarmist. After the volcano collapsed on Friday, Zeledón told the media that she estimated 1000 people died. Alemán called her a liar. The government had enough time to begin evacuation of the surrounding communities but did not take action.

Some people were stuck in the mud for up to six days. Limbs had to be amputated due to complications for being submerged in the mud. Others were carried kilometers away. Some people are still sick [when the article was originally written] from swallowing and inhaling mud. Many survivors are traumatized. Many lost entire families.

The Assassination

Nicaraguan National Assemblyman Jose Cuadra (right) speaks to ACERCA environmental justice delegation on Hurricane Mitch after the delegation returned to Managua in February 1999. Witness For Peace’s Ellen Yerby (center) and Rita d’Escoto-Clark (left) of the Nicaraguan-US Friendship Office.

continued: In an interview with National Assembly congressman and member of the government’s Environmental Commission, José Cuadra, Cuadra blamed congressman Eduardo Callejas for the collapse of the volcano. Cuadra said that Callejas deforested the slopes of the volcano in the 1960s and 70s. Pedrofélix Obregón and Elvira Blass of Comunidad Ambientalistas told us in addition to the deforestation of Las Casitas, Callejas was building 11 telecommunication towers on top of Las Casitas and also was building a road to the top of the mountain, further damaging the integrity of its slopes. Centro Humboldt’s Magda Lanuza told us that Callejas was still cutting trees on the slopes for coffee production as late as last year [1998].

In January of this year [1999], Callejas was placed on the Environmental Commission.

José Cuadra Assassinated on 18 August 1999

“Keeper of Morals” Shot Under Suspicious Circumstances

José Cuadra was held in considerable esteem by most of his colleagues, and called the keeper of morals by one legislative reporter. He had a strong anti-corruption track record, protesting a pay rise, which his fellows voted for themselves in the beginning of 1999. He also fiercely contested the recent enormous rises in the cost of electricity.

His killers used high-powered AK assault weapons.

Some of Cuadra’s colleagues, most notably Conservative Party Chief, Noel Vidaurre, speculate openly that the motive for his death was political.

When the ACERCA delegation met Cuadra in Managua in February 1999, Cuadra, in addition to putting the blame on Eduardo Callejas for the volcano collapse, said that he had information that President Alemán planned to make one million dollars a month as Nicaragua’s President. Cuadra also told ACERCA that he was investigating Alemán’s ties to the multinational fishing industry.

 

Lawmaker, 2 Others Killed in Shooting August 19, 1999From the Los Times Times Wire Reports:

A leading Nicaraguan Conservative Party lawmaker, the son of the Conservative Party chief and their driver were shot to death, National Police said in Managua. Jose Alfonso Cuadra, 40, Julio Enrique Ruiz, 26, and driver Francisco Celino were traveling to a political function when they were attacked by three armed assailants in the northern province of Matagalpa, Capt. Isabel Largaespada said. The National Assembly suspended its legislative session to mourn the “irreparable loss of one of its outstanding members.” In 1997, Cuadra was second vice president of the Assembly. Ruiz was the son of Conservative Party chief Julio Luis Quezada.

 

Note on a photograph by Langelle

Posoltega: The tree marks a mass grave, and the land affected by the mudslide resembles a desert.

This photograph on the right is an image that is etched in my brain. It is the one that never goes away. This photo impacted me on a very real aspect of what it means to be a concerned photographer – documenting a reality of a tragedy – hoping that the image of that tragedy will be used to prevent another. I took the photo while standing on a mass grave.

And today that photograph can be viewed as a warning of the climate chaos that has begun – and may it help counter the societal amnesia from which we collectively suffer.

Leave a comment

Clearcut area of forest by Dominion Energy for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. This cut is near Wintergreen Resort, a four-season mountain resort on the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains, located in Nelson County, Virginia.                                                                                       photo: Orin Langelle

 Atlantic Coast Pipeline Already Destroying Forests

Ernie Reed, from the Nelson County District Board of Supervisors, gave Dr. Mary Finley-Brook and me a tour of some of the sites where the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would go through Nelson County. Dr. Mary Finley-Brook serves on the Virginia Governor’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice and is a professor of geography and the environment at the University of Richmond.

This photo was taken close to where a drill would bore beneath the Appalachian Mountain National Scenic Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway through the mountain gap between Three Ridges Wilderness (George Washington National Forest) and Devil’s Knob (at Wintergreen Resort). The mountain consists of greenstone and granite.  The bore would be over 4,200 feet long and 46 inches in diameter for a 42” pipeline that would contain fracked natural gas at a pressure of 1440 pounds per square inch.

Dr. Finley-Brook (left) and Ernie Reed (right) by a solar powered USGS Water Quality monitoring Station in Nelson County, VA. Photo: Orin Langelle

The drill is estimated to require almost 30 million gallons of potable water. The polluted water and residue from the drilling then must be contained, transferred to tanker trucks and trucked to a waste disposal site, yet to be determined. Nelson County has declined an offer from Dominion to purchase this water and a source for it is yet to be determined

Although the ACP has not yet received final approval, Dominion Energy is clearing some corridors of forest where they have purchased easements through the threat of eminent domain. This clearcutting is considered a “preconstruction activity” by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

If constructed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would be 604 miles long and cross West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. Approximately 300 miles of the pipeline would run through forested land.

Below:

This video footage is from JR Chopper and other credits are listed at the end of this short clip. While I did not take photos for this clip, I am working on a documentary photo essay of the ACP and I did help in production of this clip.

The struggle against the pipeline has called into question many different practices by Dominion Energy regarding environmental, racial and class injustices. – Orin Langelle

 

Leave a comment

langelle-killsme_dsc_02761Featured Langelle Photography home page slider (right) was taken by Langelle during a protest march in Durban, South Africa during the United Nations Climate Conference in 2011. Langelle has six photographs in this touring show

 

Critical Information Collective Exhibit – World Social Forum 2016

Indigenous protesters at UN climate negotiations in Cancun 2010) Photo: Luka Tomac

Indigenous protesters at UN climate negotiations in Cancun (2010) Photo: Luka Tomac

Montreal, Canada – A photographic exhibit, Climate Change: Realities and Resistance, will be shown at the World Social Forum 2016 in Montreal from 9 – 14 August. This is the Canadian premier of Critical Information Collective‘s touring exhibition.

The World Premier took palace in Paris, France during the United Nations Climate Conference in 2016 and the North American debut was at the ¡Buen Vivir! Gallery for Contemporary Art in Buffalo, New York, 1 March through 29 April 2016.

CIC’s photos in Buffalo, Climate Change—Realities and Resistance, were part of the show Climate Change, System Change, Personal Change. Langellle Photography and ¡Buen Vivir! Gallery Director, Orin Langelle’s portion of the show in Paris, Buffalo and Montreal is entitled Struggles for Justice.

The exhibition in Montreal will include new panels focusing on the theme of industrial livestock farming and its impact on climate change and biodiversity.

Leave a comment

In 1990, Earth First! occupied Illinois’ Shawnee National Forest’s Fairview timber sale area for 79 days – at that time the longest occupation in EF! history. The area slated to be cut was rich in biodiversity, a haven for songbirds and loved by the many locals who went there to watch the birds, camp or enjoy nature.

The major daily newspaper in Springfield, IL, the state’s capital, called the Earth First! occupation “a popular uprising.”

3-Biscut_0870699-R1-E008

The Biscuit (1990)

Woman with monkey wrench atop buried Chevrolet Biscayne, nicknamed “The Biscuit,” in a car blockade of the Fairview timber sale in the Shawnee. The car blocked the entrance to the Shawnee National Forest during the EF! occupation. The car blockade was a replica of a photo taken during the then-ongoing “Oka Crisis.”       Photo: Langelle

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia,

The Oka Crisis was a 78-day standoff (11 July–26 September 1990) between Mohawk protesters, police, and the army. At the heart of the crisis was the proposed expansion of a golf course and development of condominiums on disputed land that included a Mohawk burial ground. Tensions were high, particularly after the death of Corporal Marcel Lemay, a police officer, and the situation was only resolved after the army was called in. While the golf course expansion was cancelled, and the land purchased by the federal government, it has not yet been transferred to the Kanesatake Mohawk community.

EF!ers in the Shawnee publicly stood in solidarity with the Mohawks and also with Redwood Summer, a major national mobilization to save the last of the ancient redwoods. Earlier that year, EF! Redwood Summer organizer Judi Bari was almost killed when a pipe bomb exploded under the seat of the car she was driving.

From the photo exhibit Struggles for Justice: Forests, Land and Human Rights

Leave a comment
Below John’s photograph and caption is an email I received from Global Justice Ecology Project board member and a long time personal friend, Karen Pickett. I think Karen expresses beautifully what many of us will remember for quite some time: R.I.P. John Trudell.
Trudell (Santee Sioux) was a spokesperson for the Indians of All Tribes occupation of Alcatraz Island from 1969 to 1971 and served as Chairman of the American Indian Movement (AIM) from 1973 to 1979. In 1982, Trudell began recording his spoken word poetry with music. An example of his spoken word poetry is in Mike Mease’s video “Buffalo Wild,” below.

Trudell (Santee Sioux) was a spokesperson for the Indians of All Tribes occupation of Alcatraz Island from 1969 to 1971 and served as Chairman of the American Indian Movement (AIM) from 1973 to 1979. In 1982, Trudell began recording his spoken word poetry with music. An example of his spoken word poetry is in Mike Mease’s video “Buffalo Wild,” below.

We have lost one who was wise beyond his human form.  A shining light when he talked, or recited his poetry, getting the brain synapses whizzing around, evoking tears, laughter, pens scribbling in a scrap of paper so you could come back to it and think about that one later…these ideas about energy, power, coherence.  I really latched on to his breaking down of power and what it really is when you’re a human being.

He was only 69.
On this same day 35 years ago, we lost John Lennon.
The sky is dark tonight—no moon

How did he shine after all he had been through? Subject to the FBI’s COINTELPRO tactics, and all the rest a radical thinker and activist bucking the system might be subject to. He came to Berkeley years ago, a year or 2 before the Judi Bari vs FBI trial and we had a ranging conversation about strategy, response, carrying on. It was very valuable for me…he was someone who was not only attacked himself, but lost his partner and children in a fire of questionable cause while he was in Washington DC burning the American flag.

In recent years, I was fortunate enough to see John and interact with him when he joined the Buffalo Field Campaign for their Bay Area road shows, which I was always involved with.  A little more than a year ago, he wrote a poem—Buffalo Wild—that is now in a video produced by Mike Mease, co-founder of BFC with the poem put to music by Goodshield and Mignon, who also tour with BFC. I include this link from You Tube:

As I write, I am listening to John’s CD released this year: Wazi’s Dream.
In “Earthling”, he not only says
“I am no more important nor less important in spiritbeing than any other of the species…”

but also
“I carry the energies of
the suns and universes
from the time before time
into the beyond beyond beyond
from where stars get their light”

Perhaps that’s where he’s gone, into the beyond, beyond beyond.
Blessed travels, John.

 

Please visit http://johntrudell.com

Leave a comment
The industrial revolution may have brought technological advances, but its reliance on fossil fuels also means that dirty technologies have proliferated, with consequences for our environment and our climate. Photo: Bogdan Bousca (Romania) bogdanbousca.finegallery.net

The industrial revolution may have brought technological advances, but its reliance on fossil fuels also means that dirty technologies have proliferated, with consequences for our environment and our climate. Photo ©: Bogdan Bousca (Romania) bogdanbousca.finegallery.net

Paris, France – Telling the story of the growing global demand for climate justice, featuring images from photographers in Australia, Croatia, Romania, the UK and the USA. This exhibition is on display in Paris during the UNFCCC COP 21 negotiations, at the Climate Action Zone (ZAC), 7-11 December. The address is Room Ecuries C, Centquatre, 5, rue Curial, 75019 Paris. (The closest metro stations are Stalingrad and Riquet.)

It includes images from the following Critical Information Collective photographers, in panels of six images: David Tao (Australia), Luka Tomac (Croatia), Bogdan Bousca (Romania), Orin Langelle (USA), Jason Taylor (UK), and JudithDeland (Australia). There is a seventh panel comprising images from Stephen D Melkisethian (USA), Susan Melkisethian (USA), Joseph O Holmes (USA) and Ronnie Hall (UK).

For the exhibit, please go to UN Climate Conference of the Parties 21 (COP 21) Exhibition: Climate Change—Realities and Resistance

The second showing of this exhibit will be at the ¡Buen Vivir! Gallery in Buffalo, NY. The exhibit opens there on 4 March 2016. That show will include work by artist Ashley Powell.

Notice that Orin Langelle, Buen Vivir! Gallery director, has one of the panels, Struggles for Justice, with six photographs in the Paris show, that is coming to Buffalo.

 

Leave a comment

Most everyone who reads this probably knows the name of Harvard professor, Timothy Leary – and the LSD psychedelic culture he helped inspire. Richard Alpert (Ram Dass), was the other Harvard professor who worked with Leary starting in the early 1960’s until they both were fired for their experiments.

The work they did, and the publicizing of it, was a key factor in the transformative individual and societal changes that swept through the 60s and 70s.


Ram Dass’s journey is less known but quite important to understand one of the directions manifested by consciousness expansion.

A Short Film about Being – Here, Now, and Forever

“We are all just walking each other home”

by Derek Peck

A profound encounter with the legendary counter-cultural hero and spiritual teacher, at his home on Maui

Ram Dass – Background

Ram Dass is one of the last great counter-cultural figures from the Sixties and Seventies and one of the most important spiritual teachers of the last fifty years. If you’ve read, or even glanced through Be Here Now, you have almost certainly been touched by his work. But that seminal book was only the beginning of a journey dedicated to helping others along their personal paths, always with a focus on expanding awareness, expanding love, and living in the present moment.

In fact, Ram Dass’ journey along this path began even earlier, with the work he and Timothy Leary did at Harvard in the mid 1960s. Together, they famously experimented with LSD as a consciousness-expanding drug, both personally and in laboratory studies. The work they did, and the publicizing of it, was a key factor in the transformative individual and societal changes that swept through those decades. Unlike Leary however, Ram Dass, or Dr. Richard Alpert as he was known at the time, went off to India on an extended journey in search of more enduring ways to expand consciousness. There he met a guru who changed the dimensions of his search, and his life, altering his pursuit of consciousness expansion from a psychedelic path to the yogic path, and shifting his awareness from the material and the ego to the spiritual and the Self.

Read More

7167fea89f497021fa87122b755a1e2a_original

 

 

Leave a comment

Note: I am honored that Alexis Lathem chose one of my photographs for the cover of her new book, Alphabet of Bones. Alexis and I have been friends for almost a quarter of a century and have worked on many campaigns together. And we both have much more to share as time goes by…

If you are near Burlington, Vermont on September 26th, I hope you will attend Alexis’ book launch party (details below).

Alphabet of Bones

Special Book Launch   26 September 2015 @ 4:30 p.m.
Arts Riot
400 Pine Street
Burlington, VT 05401
The readings will be accompanied by a fine art slideshow and a live jazz music performance.

Alphabet of Bones

by Alexis Lathem

Releases September 2015

Alphabet of Bones is a collection of poems born out of the poet’s long engagement with the natural world—as gardener, shepherd, activist, and as a mortal human being whose bones will one day return to dust. Set in the context of unprecedented violence against nature—as living cultures are reduced to archeology—these poems take the long view, insisting on a deep ecological memory, and an awareness that our stories will be told through the landscapes we leave behind. From the pastoral landscape to the arctic tundra, these poems trace the discovery of the luminous in the shadows of loss. “We must leave a message,” the poet asks. “But in what language will we speak?”

 

Praise for Alphabet of Bones

“Alexis Lathem’s poems are steeped in patient observations and a deep comprehension of the grace and tragedy of human life, of the mysteries of the natural world, and our fragile place within it. Perhaps most of all these poems are shaped by an understanding of the power of language — its music as much as its meaning. Alphabet of Bones is a grave, beautiful accomplishment.”
—Jane Brox, author of Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light, named one of the top ten nonfiction books of 2010 by Time magazine; Five Thousand Days Like This One, a 1999 finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in nonfiction; and Here and Nowhere Else, winner of the L.L. Winship/PEN New England Award.

 

Instructions for a Ghost Writer

Let it rain so long that the only vowel the water knows is O.
Keep still. Wait for the mist to lift.

If you’ve listened to the moths beat their wings against their moons—
then you will be prepared.

You will hear things—animals, footsteps, wind—
and will doubt yourself. This is to be expected.
Your ghost will come.

She will tap softly in your ear and hum.
She has a fondness for words like pellucid and papyri.  
She will want you to put them in.

Follow these instructions and she will come again.
Stay close to death. Stop for the dying squirrel in the road,
put its heartbeat in your poem.
Grow your parsley and calendula from seed.

She might fall asleep in the corner of your room, stumble out at dawn.
Overtake you walking on the Brooklyn Bridge. Be tender,
she is made of the faded scent of pine. Close the door quietly.
Erase.

 

About the Poet

1436552732483Alexis Lathem is an environmental journalist and writing teacher. Recipient of the Chelsea Award for Poetry, a Vermont Arts Council grant, and a Bread Loaf scholarship, her poems and essays have appeared in many journals. In her reporting on the struggles of indigenous peoples to defend their lands from development, she has paddled and trekked through taiga and rainforest. She lives on a small farm in the Winooski River Valley.

 

 To purchase Alphabet of Bones, please contact:

Wind Ridge Books of Vermont
233 Falls Rd., PO Box 595, Shelburne, VT 05482
(802) 922-7641  [email protected]

 

 

Leave a comment
EnglishFrenchGermanItalianPortugueseRussianSpanish