Poetry Sunday: “Anthropocene Pastoral,”
by Catherine Pierce

Anthropocene Pastoral

In the beginning, the ending was beautiful.
Early spring everywhere, the trees furred
pink and white, lawns the sharp green
that meant new. The sky so blue it looked
manufactured. Robins. We’d heard
the cherry blossoms wouldn’t blossom
this year, but what was one epic blooming
when even the desert was an explosion
of verbena? When bobcats slinked through
primroses. When coyotes slept deep in orange
poppies. One New Year’s Day we woke
to daffodils, wisteria, onion grass wafting
through the open windows. Near the end,
we were eyeletted. We were cottoned.
We were sundressed and barefoot. At least
it’s starting gentle, we said. An absurd comfort,
we knew, a placebo. But we were built like that.
Built to say at least. Built to reach for the heat
of skin on skin even when we were already hot,
built to love the purpling desert in the twilight,
built to marvel over the pink bursting dogwoods,
to hold tight to every pleasure even as we
rocked together toward the graying, even as
we held each other, warmth to warmth,
and said sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry while petals
sifted softly to the ground all around us.


First published in The American Poetry Review, Nov./Dec. 2017.


Catherine Pierce is the author of three books of poetry: The Tornado Is the World, The Girls of Peculiar, and Famous Last Words, all from Saturnalia Books. Her poems have appeared in The Best American Poetry, The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, The Southern Review, New England Review, and elsewhere. She codirects the creative writing program at Mississippi State University. The Tornado is the World is available for order here, and you can read a review in The Rumpus here.


Poet’s Note

A couple of falls ago, I noticed that the trees were confused—some of them were budding when they should have been readying for winter. But who could blame them? It certainly didn’t feel like late November, not most days. And there was something lovely about it, those bright buds against the gray sky, even as it was unsettling. The desert super bloom was a thrill of color, even if it was spurred by extreme weather. Those occasional soft-air days in January, a month that used to be exclusively for car defrostings and the misery of too many layers: a relief, if a guilty one. In writing this poem, I was compelled by the idea that this planet we’re steadily destroying is so magnificent that even its deterioration can look, at times, beautiful.

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