Posted: March 19, 2010 in Poetry

Things are starting to fall into place for the Capital Slam end of season excitement.

I am super-hyped…

CONTEXT: May, 2008

As is a running theme with me, as I was getting closer to the Capital Slam finals in 2008, I started to question the strength of the pieces I had planned and decided that I needed to write something new.

Now, sometimes this is a problem because now I am writing FOR slam, which does not work well for me as it lacks the authenticity that I need in my art, for both personal reasons as well as ‘professional’.

However, I keep a notebook with poem ‘hooks/ideas’ for just this reason. I dove into my book and came out with three poems. One of them was a strong slam piece. The other two were not… though that doesn’t make them bad poems.

This is one of the latter two.

Side note… I hate the line about the otter… but I have just never changed it. It makes me cringe whenever I read it.

Second side note… this poem pretty much sums up my attitude towards the environment around us. I am a city guy, not a nature guy… yet I really value nature.


This isn’t an environmental poem
Asking you to fight global warming
Or save an endangered bird
Or conserve wasted energy,
Though these are all good causes.
This isn’t a religious poem
Looking after your immortal soul
Trying to find your way
To the afterlife of your choosing,
Though this is also a good cause.

No, this poem is neither of
Those things,
Yet it does ask you to save
The world and save your soul,
For we are all at war –
Fighting a battle we can’t win.
An undeclared fight between
SUVs and old growth trees,
Between mountains touching the heavens
And Tim Horton’s and 7-11s.
We beat nature back,
Attack after attack,
And Mother Nature waits
Because she knows that battles
Are not wars
And all she has to do is wait us out.

Every poisoned river and strip-mined valley
Is a wound to her,
But wounds heal and there is
Nothing we can do
That won’t reverse after we’re long gone.

But this isn’t an environmental poem.
The issue at hand is not how these ugly
Wounds hurt our mother
But how they hurt our souls.

We surround ourselves with concrete and metal
And corners and bevels,
And I’m not calling that down.
I’m a city kid too
And it’s the people all around
That make the city hum
In a way that nature can’t repeat –
Except in that we are part of her
And she is part of we.

But leave the city and look around
See the trees and mountains and ground.
Dig your toes in the dirt
And your hands in the water.
Seek out the wolf, and owl, and otter.

Smell the air without the not so subtle
Scent of Au-de-automobile.
Listen to the crickets
Instead of the distant sirens
Or the club with the struggling
Jazz band.

Remember to feed your soul.
It feeds on art and beauty
And love and joy –
All of which can be found
In the majestic sweep
Of a shiny skyscraper…

Or the sparkle in a friend’s eye.
It can be found in that beat
Dropped by the D.J.’s heat
Or a line sent to you
Out there in your seats.

But that is not all there is.
We need balance in life.

You can drive from Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania to Washington,
D.C. without ever feeling
Like you left the city.
How long before Ottawa to
Toronto is the same way?

Lakes and trees matter,
Even if you are just driving
Past them.
Snow-capped mountains matter,
Even if you’re flying over them.
A sunset matters
Because it feeds your soul.

A tree farm is not a forest.
A park is not a field.
A canal is not a river.

Once we were thrown out of Eden
And we spent the rest
Of the time saying
‘Screw you, Eden! No we’ve
Got HBO!’
And living on streets named afte the trees
That were torn out to make room for development.

Instead of welcoming the
Divine in nature
We try to subjugate it.
Instead of worshipping it
We try to tame it.
Instead of nurturing it
We pave it.

We pave paradise
And put up a parking lot.

And our souls go hungry.


Next up is Part 2 in the trifecta of Slam attempts.

  1. Sean Dowd says:

    Well done Rusty…I saw an Otter the other day…it was stuffed…but that is the closest that they ever”let” you get to them so what the hey….at least you are not rhyming….”our daughter…otter…avoid the slaughter…no yours is OK to use….Otters are a favorite animal for many of us…they are cute and they eat fewer cod than those accursed seals….(which are also cute…but do not rhyme with water.

    I had a good time Wed…it was funny to hear the boys trying to make up a Limmerick…they do not have much background in that area….I like the guys very much and Brandon did a very touching…”summer love” poem…there was good stuff again…see you next time…good luck…break a leg at Slam!

  2. […] great slam piece, but I still like the poem (though much like my complaint about the Otter line in Paradise, I cringe when I read the mongrel’s howl couplet in this […]

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