by Scott T. Starbuck
Wind Spirit said to the man, “I will ask a question, and each day you give the wrong answer,
I will take a finger. The question is hard, requiring much reflection, and self-purification.
I don’t know how many fingers you will lose. That is up to you.
How will you save the community of species on Earth?”
“The question is too hard,” protested the man.
“It has been ordained,” said Wind Spirit, “and cannot be changed. I will return tomorrow at noon.”
The man knew coyote was smart so he went to ask, but all coyotes were dead.
He knew king salmon had a bright red soul so he went to ask, but all king salmon were dead.
He knew steelhead trout could leap waterfalls so he went to ask, but all steelhead trout were dead.
He knew eagle had unerring vision so he went to ask, but all eagles were dead.
Trembling, he knew cougar could be invisible, but all cougars were dead.
In ten days, the man lost all his fingers.
This is a parable written on what remains of the ancient Pleistocene Lake Chewaucan now called Summer Lake, Oregon.
Published in the Amsterdam Quarterly
Writing and art in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and the world
Starbuck is a co-creative writing coordinator at San Diego Mesa College, was a Friends of William Stafford Scholar at the “Speak Truth to Power” Fellowship of Reconciliation Seabeck Conference, an Artsmith Fellow on Orcas Island, writer-in-residence at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, and 2016 PLAYA climate-change resident in poetry. His ecoblog, Trees, Fish, and Dreams, with audio poems, is at riverseek.blogspot.com.
Scott T. Starbuck is a poet/activist. His books are Industrial Oz: Ecopoems, noted by Bill McKibben as “rousing, needling, haunting,” Hawk on Wire: Ecopoems, available at Fomite Press (preferred) and Amazon.