The Earth Remembers
A Hundred and Eleven Line Poem
written by: Kalpna Singh-Chitnis
With the rain, we shall return to life again,
the last tree standing in the forest said,
before falling into the bushfire.
The animals fled their homes. A mother koala, scorched,
went looking for her baby, limping on the charred ground.
The birds abandoned their nests and flew to fetch clouds from far skies.
No one really knows how many birds and animals died,
how many trees fell, offering their last sermons, but the earth.
The earth remembers everything.
She remembers every drop of blood spilled on her breast,
and the name of all her children taken away from her arms—
enslaved, sold, or slaughtered.
She remembers their hunger and diseases,
droughts and revolutions.
There is no vaccination for our greed and contempt.
She loads the corpses of her children
in refrigerated trucks at hospitals
and drives them to their final destination.
In the lockdown, she is a warrior
fighting in the front, growing food in the fields,
fruits on the trees, cleaning the air and sky.
She has a thousand hands. She experiments in the labs.
Behind scrubs and gloves, masks, and goggles, she is a nurse and doctor.
Behind the uniforms, she is a soldier and an officer.
In the mountains, she is a Yogini,
chanting healing mantras in isolation. Standing on one leg,
with her arms up, she prays to the sun. The suffering must end.
She churns out clouds from the oceans’ blues
and delivers to far extents of the skies.
She remembers every drop of rain on her face,
every seed conceived in her womb,
she has given birth only to Prophets
and Bodhisattvas, we have transformed.
A failed mother? She breathes deeply,
birthing countless offspring,
and letting them go on their path.
Nothing can be controlled. Nothing is meant to be controlled,
except for our own pace. She reflects in the silences and
offers herself to the cosmic *Yajña, like an ancient sage.
Let’s pause for a moment and feel the earth beneath our feet.
She is there for us, revolving, without wavering,
orbiting the sun without failing, from the time unknown.
Where is your orbit? Where is your sun? She asks us.
Both day and night are needed to sustain and renew.
But we falter. She remembers our falls and tears.
She remembers our very first step and playgrounds.
Every word and language we have ever spoken, she has taught us.
She remembers every journey and battlefield we have ever been to.
She seldom talks about our victories and defeats,
but keeps everything that matters to her
in her heart, safe and unaltered.
With her walking stick, she scribbles the memories of millenniums.
On still nights, she travels in all directions and collects—
the relics of the fallen stars, her ancestors.
She picks debris in our alleys and seabeds.
Sweltering in landfills, she calls our names.
Give me a hand, my children. Would you?
She feels exasperated at times.
Smothered in oil, she is a seagull,
a turtle, unable to breathe on a seashore.
She is an elephant without tusks,
and a lion hunted for a trophy.
She is a precious sapphire mistaken for a rock.
In the hues of our skin ripened in heat and frost
are the colors of her seasons.
We owe to her DNA hidden in our bodies.
Every village and town, every nation and destination,
every monument and home
we have ever built and destroyed,
She has kept their data in her core drive,
since the time of the great explosion.
Nothing is lost. Nothing will ever be lost,
even on the day of Armageddon.
Her backups are safe in the clouds.
She looks into the eyes of her children and smiles.
She knows by heart the counts of
every grain of sand in the deserts,
every leaf and grass in the forests,
every calf and cub latched to her breast,
every insect and butterfly sitting on her veil,
every fish swimming in her blue eyes,
every bird and reptile
living in the nest of her hair
and alluring headdress.
The lines of her hands are the map of the cosmos. She sits back and enjoys—
the shadowplay of the sun and the moon, the giggles of all her rivers
and the winds playing tunes on their ancient flutes.
She designs every snowflake precisely
and knits sweaters for all her children in the winter.
In spring, she adorns herself with flowers.
In summer, she travels into the woods.
In autumn, she retreats into the silence.
In thunderstorms, she practices calm.
In the fire, she purifies herself.
In the rain, she regenerates with new vigor.
She resurrects all her children buried with her hands.
She remembers their graves and grounds of cremations,
every cloud and mountain, every fruit and flower,
every crop and field.
She knows the *Gathas of all *Kalpas and every scripture.
She knows exactly where she had given birth to the Buddha,
Rama, and Krishna; Jesus, Nanak, and Muhammad.
The earth writes her own history, embossed in our cells.
She tells her true stories to her children in their most vulnerable moments
and gives her verdicts on their disputes. We can’t judge.
We can’t dig deep enough to see her broken self.
The earth offers her own masterclass from time to time,
on her own schedule on love, understanding, and acceptance.
We haven’t been good students.
The earth also remembers not to remember everything,
so she can forgive her children.
* Yajña – a Hindu ritual of sacrifices and making offerings of various ingredients to the fire to please god(s).
* Gathas – Verses with morals.
* Kalpas – a Sanskrit word that equals 4.32 billion years.
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