We were sitting like a group of Vervet monkeys*
Beside a fire in a bucket, casting shadows, trying to keep
Above us the stars trailed with
Light from where they were no longer.
And I remember all the other times, times
When we had said: How can we stop
The sudden heat? The melting and the floods?
The yearly losses of birds, the lack of cuckoo song,
The hunger and displacement.
In my head I made a list of everything we’d lose,
Cornflower, dock, radish, oak summer,
Earwigs, bees, crows, potatoes cabbages,
But it was far too long, then I remembered that
Being animal, I could live on berries,
Green leaves, roots from underground
Grown in a patch of earth.
Then Graham said, for goodness sake! Look at this ring of
We need to make more fires and circles for the soul
Across the beaches and hills
Lanterns for Gaia,
Not just a label, or a clever name
But light and conversations, to bring changes.
See all those others, across the distance.
And Toby shrugged and grinned and said
‘OK I’ll carry on’!
(Luckily it was December, the cold frost time called winter,
That has snow
And it still mattered to hope).
© Clare Crossman 2019
* Vervet monkeys are an endangered species.
The Night Toby Denied Climate Change was published in the anthology Letters to the Earth: Writing to a Planet in Crisis (HarperCollins UK, 2019). The book is a collection of a hundred poems, essays and other pieces collected in response to a call by Letters to the Earth in April 2019. You can read Clare’s review of the book — and account of her inspiration for this poem — in her January 2020 post for the ClimateCultures blog, An Invitation to Act: Letters to the Earth.