This is not a poem. This is an incident report.

 

At the South Carolina March for Science, held at the Statehouse on April 2, Earth Day, Tara Powell read a powerful new poem, "Incident Report." Written specifically for the march, the poem addresses environmental concerns through conversations with her four-year-old son.

 

The state march was held in conjunction with a national March for Science and many other marches around the nation and the world, all calling attention to the importance of science, the value of clear air and water, the reality of climate change, and the policies of the Trump administration that betray all of these things. South Carolina organizers included speakers from the arts and religion on the program--including Powell, an associate professor of English and Southern Studies at the University of South Carolina and a poet. 

 

Powell's poem calls attention to the value of science through conversations with her four-year-old son, who shows up in the poem with a paper model of the solar system on his head. "This is not a poem," Powell repeats, it is an incident report, it is a report card, it is a lesson plan.

 

We are honored and delighted to post "Incident Report" for the first time in print here on the Jasper blog. 

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Incident Report

 

Columbia, SC, March for Science

April 22, 2017

 

Listen up, class.

This is not a poem, y’all.

This is an incident report.

My four-year-old came home wearing the solar system

on his head.  It’s all the colors,

scraps of paper orbiting his curls.

I imagine this boy commanding tides,

moving back the waters creeping up our steps.

I tell him about the cypress water;

he tells me about stars.

One thing reflected in the other.

The bream move beneath, whatever

we believe.  The stars shoot across,

whatever we know.

 

Hurry up please, it’s time.

This is not a poem, Columbia.

This is a report card.

My four-year-old came home wearing the solar system

on his head.  It’s a crown of many colors,

illegal in another place and time.

An emergent truth:  he is his brother and sister’s

explainer-in-chief, not me.  He says

his friends at school are going to kill the trees,

that they tore the garden out by its roots that day

and the teacher couldn’t stop them.

He never wants a playdate again.  He is afraid

they are coming for our magnolia.  He patrols

the yard, my sweet, solar boy.

The trees give us breath, he says.

My boy makes me breathless.

 

Last call, America. 

This is not a poem.

This is a lesson plan.

My four-year-old came home wearing the solar system

on his head.  The moon was pink last week,

 

the egg moon, the first of spring.  The rising water

still deeply brown.  Uneasy lies the hand

that crowned that crown, the mother who picks

it up when he puts it down.  The march is round

our trees and down our street,

over to the schoolyard where they play

for keeps.  The good Lord grant what I hope for him,

plenty of ink and a wide blue pen,

a curl of stars and marching feet,

strings to take soundings from below the deep,

a listening ear, and a voice to teach.

 

The things he wonders, I will work to know.

 Tara Powell

Tara Powell