Poet's Corner: Terry Ehret's ‘Peaceful Destruction'

These days the hills of Sonoma County are lushly green. The apple orchards confetti the air with fresh, pink blossoms, and the stone-throated creeks at our feet sing with deep water and frog song.

Terry Ehret, Sonoma County Poet Laureate Emeritus, addresses such a vivid spring landscape in her poem, “Peaceful Destruction.” She uses it as a way to uncover the violence that can exist under the surface of even the most peaceful beauty.

The poem is set at the foot of Mount Burdell, a 1,500-foot peak between Sonoma and Marin counties that offers paths where insects buzz and the air is crowded with birdsong; a place that continues to turn over in beauty whether or not destruction plagues the world.

Ehret's poem asks us to remember what has happened - drone strikes, the news of the dead and dying that's delivered in the daily paper - but also to believe in the power of spring's renewal, its power to transform in a season “new graves/ into blue fields of flowers.”

“Peaceful Destruction”

by Terry Ehret

The creek behind my house is noisy

with frog choruses. The grass is so long it leans

over. Bugs open their wings on the blades' edges and wait

for a breeze to lift them into the air. The path winds

south toward Mt. Burdell under the white blossoms of plums.

And the air is crowded with birdsong. This is the peaceful world

that turns the spring earth over whether or not drone planes

drop bombs in Pakistan, or the Israelis reject yet another

negation, or voices of dissent are drowned in gunfire. The paper

arrives each morning with the dead and dying. We've run amok,

burned all of our bridges, melted the arctic ice masses, abandoned

the underwater cathedrals, forgotten our mating calls.

It's been the eve of destruction since 1964, but this morning when the mist

lifted off the river, spring deepened into green,

green hills, dotted with lupine and blue-eyed grass. Spring

wants to be spring, turning bone

back into wood and new graves

into blue fields of flowers.

From “Night Sky Journey,” Kelly's Grove Press, 2011

Iris Jamahl Dunkle, Sonoma County's Poet Laureate, writes this column biweekly for The Press Democrat.

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