“These Violent Delights Have Violent Ends” by Caitlin Gildrien

Caitlin Gildrien


I don’t want to write
about California. I don’t want to look.
Did you know there were two new litters
of mountain lions in the Santa Monica mountains?
A mama can only carry one at a time. I don’t know
why that’s the thing that breaks me. It’s the world
that breaks me. We’ve broken the world.

Just past the tweet that tells me about the kittens
is a thread about Romeo and Juliet,
the Claire and Leo movie version,
and that is what I click through. How I loved that movie,
the fish tank, the kissing. I wanted to live
in a world like that, a world like this world
except slant. Better lighting, better language.

How you can understand it best
by not listening too closely. I think too much.
All the fish in that tank scooped probably from the sea;
how the sea is failing. I wanted to love someone
until they would die for me. I wanted to be the one
they would choose to carry out of the burning world.

When the fish stocks fail, when the Amazon tips
past the point for which it can compensate
with the meager reforestation it is allowed—
there should be nicer language for this in a poem,
I’m sorry. I just keep thinking of Juliet, who thought the sea
was infinite and so a good metaphor for love.
But we’re determined to find the bottom
of any bounty. They thought this continent
was boundless, too, and scraped it clean
to prove themselves its better. They.

Did you see that storm of smoke,
utterly apocalyptic, over the highway?
It makes a person say God. God, lift me
by the scruff. Or the throat, maybe.
All of us, maybe. Shake hard.
Be rough with love.

from Poets Respond
November 15, 2018


Caitlin Gildrien: “A friend who is a science writer tweeted about the mountain lion kittens, and though of course the costs of these fires are deep and broad for humans and for the rest of the environment, that fact really shook me—as did the way that Twitter shoves the somber and heartbreaking up against the trivial as though they are equally weighted. I was born in California, though I live across the country now, and it’s been increasingly painful each year to watch the fires become more uncontrollable. It’s one of the many reasons I fear for our future.” (web)

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