The Park

I composed the following poem while on a morning walk with Leben. It is an urban lament, a grieving for the lives I wish we had and the people I wish we were. It is our world’s cry for help and our call to action. What will you do?



When the trash cans are full of “shatterproof” malt liquor  bottles instead of Gatorade

When my new puppy has learned to prefer cigarette butts over sticks

When I see more homeless people taking shelter here every day than people out for a jog

When we prefer to sit indoors watching Netflix on the most beautiful day of the week

When it takes too much effort to recycle used cans

You know we need help.


When you worry about nearby children picking up used blunt wrappers on the trail

When the air smells more of gasoline than of fresh grass

When you sit down on the ground and your first thought is that the grass “feels like plastic”

When an annoying celebrity gets more news coverage than a serious local water catastrophe

You know we need help.


When it becomes smart to question labels such as “natural” “fair trade” and “organic”

When you don’t recognize half of the ingredients listed on every label in your pantry

When we prefer the ignorance of the McNugget over the satisfaction of a home-cooked meal

When you pass a mother with a stroller in the middle of the woods, and her child is utterly absorbed in a blaring iPad

When we regularly insert products in our bodies without knowing or caring what toxic chemicals they contain

You know we need help.


When climate change is still up for debate around the dinner table

When our most profound glimpse of the stars comes only from a light-polluted city

When “the city” digs up the local field where kids used to play soccer, and left it a silent, joyless mud tract unfit for any non-bulldozer beings

When multiple classmates say they enjoy hiking as their only self-descriptor, yet when asked where they hike around here only answer “Well… I went in Colorado… once…”

When non-chemically altered products are the “marked” category

You know we need help.


When our smartphones see more activity in ten minutes than our bodies do in a week

When no one has any idea where the leather in our shoes comes from, or whose hands dutifully packaged them

When children are raised in glass houses with forty rooms, yet their only friends exist behind a computer screen and their parents complain about an influx of homeless, asking “But where on earth would we house them all??”

When we feel more connected to our wifi than to our maker

You know we need help.


When food staples of our ancestors are seen as public enemy number one in the eyes of an obese and diet-obsessed culture

When none of us have seen where our garbage goes beyond the scope of the corner dumpster

When bodily functions and processes are seen as more repulsive than side-of-the-road litter

When the thought of going phone-less for twelve hours gives an anxiety attack

When we “share” more moments than we actually share

You know we need help.


When our refrigerators are full of expired food, whose origin we can only guess at

You know we need help.

When our parks become more of a safe-haven for smokers than for families

You know we need help.

When picking up litter day after day after day leaves no cleaner a stream

You know we need help.

You know.

What will you do about it?

Shin to bul eeBody and soil are one. -South Korean Proverb


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