Climate 2019
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Read ‘Great Barrier,’ Barbara Kingsolver’s Wrenching Ode to Our Planet

2 minute read
Kingsolver is the author of 15 books, including a forthcoming book of poetry

The cathedral is burning. Absent flame or smoke,
stained glass explodes in silence, fractal scales
of angel damsel rainbow parrot. Charred beams
of blackened coral lie in heaps on the sacred floor,
white stones fallen from high places, spires collapsed
crushing sainted turtle and gargoyle octopus.

Something there is in my kind that cannot love
a reef, a tundra, a plain stone breast of desert, ever
quite enough. A tree perhaps, once recomposed
as splendid furniture. A forest after the whole of it
is planed to posts and beams and raised to a heaven
of earnest construction in the name of Our Lady.

All Paris stood on the bridges to watch her burning,
believing a thing this old, this large and beautiful
must be holy and cannot be lost. And coral temples
older than Charlemagne suffocate unattended,
bleach and bleed from the eye, the centered heart.

Lord of leaves and fishes, lead me across this great divide.
Teach me how to love the sacred places, not as one
devotes to One who made me in his image and is bound
to love me back. I mean as a body loves its microbial skin,
the worm its nape of loam, all secret otherness forgiven.

Love beyond anything I will ever make of it.

Harry Campbell for TIME

This is one article in a series on the state of the planet’s response to climate change. Read the rest of the stories and sign up for One.Five, TIME’s climate change newsletter.

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