O’Reilly and Hikmet – Poet’s Grieving for our Earth!

American poet Dion O’Reilly


Jets are the new motor homes
chemtrails are the new clouds
the unknown dead on an island
are the calm before a storm
robots are the new immigrants
Roundup is the new hoe
Colbert is the new Cronkite
smoke is the new sky
drought is the new summer
cars are heart disease
dust is lawn
downtown is the new homeless
Amazon is the new mall
retired is the new nomad
needles are the new rusty nail
plastic is the new lead
viral is the new headline
posting is the new protest
the horizon of the western ocean
is the new ghost of Godzilla
the Cold War is the new Cold War
fire heading down a suburban street
is wind
anxiety is the new air
the Earth’s crust is the weak eggshell
of a songbird.

Dion’O’Reilly from Poets Respond, Rattle On-Line, Oct. 15th, 2017

How the blog-sphere can link us in powerful ways. I was away when American poet Tony Hoagland died in October. It was only through a current response to a three-year old blog post on Hoagland that I learned he had died. That response was from American poet Dion O’Reilly. For my previous blog posts on Hoagland please click here or here or here.

I was not familiar with O’Reilly’s work but now I have read a few of her poems on line. And her poem above, from Rattle’s on-line Poet’s Respond feature, struck home. This parallel-list poem. And she does in this poem what I so appreciate in Tony Hoagland’s poetry. She pulls the veil off the so-called contemporary cultural normal. Opens my eyes, dulled to what I have taken for granted. All the changes happening around me. And not all great!

So many wide-eyed moments in her poem: Robots are the new immigrants, Amazon is the new mall. And this one particularly gets me: Roundup is the new hoe.

And after all the listing of our new normal, the poem’s last lines cracked me open. Pun intended. This gorgeous metaphor for our planet’s fragility. Oh, how fragile we and our planet are. How much these lines tell me this with such tenderness: the Earth’s crust is the weak eggshell/ of a songbird. This is the poet’s job. To cast something we take for granted in a new light. To make us feel it, see it differently. How much more lightly would we tread on this dear earth if we thought of it, our dear earth, as the weak eggshell/ of a songbird.

O’Reilly’s poignant lines whip up my emotions, call me to be present and make me think of the Turkish poet Nazim’s Hikmet’s great poem On Living, especially part III of that poem:

from On Living


This earth will grow cold,
a star among stars
and one of the smallest,
a gilded mote on blue velvet–
I mean this, our great earth.
This earth will grow cold one day,
not like a block of ice
or a dead cloud even
but like an empty walnut it will roll along
in pitch-black space …
You must grieve for this right now
– you have to feel this sorrow now –
for the world must be loved this much
if you’re going to say “I lived” …

February, 1948

Nazim Hikmet from Poems of Nazim Hikmet, Persea Books, 2002, Trans., Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk

These get-me-in-the-gut lines: This earth will grow cold one day,/not like a block of ice/or a dead cloud even/but like an empty walnut it will roll along/ in pitch-black space …/You must grieve for this right now/ – you have to feel this sorrow now – /for the world must be loved this much/ if you’re going to say “I lived” …

You must grieve for this right now. What an adjuration. And both O’Reilly and Hikmet bring me that grief up front and personal. And they ask me to feel it. Ouch and double ouch. Insects are going the way of the dinosaurs (in O’Reilly-speak: Insects are the new dinosaurs) and maybe the Monarchs too. I must grieve this if I am going to say “I lived”.


  1. Posted February 7, 2019 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Oh My, what a wonderful surprise! Being blogged is the new compliment!!!! Thank you!

  2. Richard Osler
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Dion, my pleasure! And I have more Hoagland to post as well. Hope you are well. Thank you for being a reader of my blog! And thank you for your poem!

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