Journalism In Verse


The Brain Takes Its Time

in Environment by

(Getting Around to Climate Change)

The brain takes its basement stairs
that lead below the neighborhood.
It’s down there sorting, taking its time,
hunting in decades of National Geographic
for the rhinoceros of early parts of the last
century when it lived longer than it can now,
thrashing through the tall grasses of peace,
an oxpecker riding tall on seriously muscled
armor-plated shoulders of its bull bulldozer,
the bird forever on alert, prepared to warble
the predator alarm, living on ticks and sips
of blood if it finds a wound. What’s a little
loss of blood, if surveillance wouldn’t hurt
the effort of being a rhino around the wilder
creations pressured into deploying their own
unequivocal prowess in such a place packed
with crawling ambushes, creatures licking ripe
enzymes onto pupae before foraging or mortal
clashes with fearlessness in a red-eyed enemy?
After the electrical brain has finished chores,
hauling off petrified brushes and house-paint
cans, it digs into its garden, working the soil
loose a moment in winds from a papal palace
that carry a little away with candle-hat flashes
over the mammoth affection the brain has had
for instinctive wherewithal, in the smooth feel
of this body with endemic regard for a hair’s
or a city’s width, when it’s flanked by so much
beauty of the species and what we’ve made,
however much of the stuff has to be retrofit.



James Grabill’s work appears in Terrain, Caliban, Ginosko, Sequestrum, and others. His books include Poem Rising Out of the Earth (1994) and An Indigo Scent after the Rain (2003). He has also written environmental prose poems, Sea-Level Nerve: Book One (2014) and Book Two (2015), published by Wordcraft of Oregon. For many years in Portland, he taught writing and global issues relative to sustainability.

Photo by Joel Herzog.


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