Poetry & Prose
P&P EcoLit


We highlight fine examples of environmental literature where poetry and prose are skillfully intermingled.
The Delicate Art of Whale Watching
By Joana McIntyre
Web of Water
By Maya Khosla
More from Maya Khosla

P&P Poem of the Month

Headlands Jazz Players
Night of the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble Performance
Marin Headlands 1998
by Maya Khosla

Eyes closed now, a couple walk into the swirl, 
the center of the room,
the music, an invisible axis running through them, 
sending them clicking, reeling-all eyes on them
where the notes touch their skin and burn into movement.

The sharps and flats surge out through dark leaves, 
washing them, melting layers of our waiting,
like rain-washed dust- filigree, a month's worth of it- 
tap, drum-all in synch,  one of them blowing life into notes 
turning the knots of anticipation loose, 
dissolving them, where we sit, clinging to this naked
clothing of music, sounds washing neck, face, eyes, feet, 
even feet-
where the pulse comes up through the bare wood floor.

The sounds shadow-woven together, stitched, 
seamless as a warm, small rain entering pine, 
running down the bark, flashing- fingers of soil running wild, 
to enter a rapid river of their own making-
sleeves rolled, the warmth in flow, fingertips to string after string,
and breath after breath exhaled.

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Web of Water

Maya Khosla's beautiful book, "Web of Water - Life in Redwood Creek" was released June 1997. 

Published as a paperback by the Golden Gate National Parks Association, it is available for purchase online here

The Book contains detailed illustrations by Maryjo Koch, as shown here on the cover.

The Golden Gate National Parks Association works with the National Park Service (NPS) to preserve and enhance the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA). Maya performed surveys for the NPS in Redwood Creek, which is located in Muir Woods, just north of San Francisco.

The text of the story is interspersed with related pieces of short prose. For example, we read in Chapter One "A FRAGILE HABITAT":

Shadowy fish
move through the clear water. Chiseled by
birds, silence echoes among some of the tallest
trees in the world, the coast redwood.
The morning sun warms the air, and walkers and
hikers line the quiet trails, enjoying the
peaceful space, the gift of time in Muir Woods.


And in Chapter Three "Thinking like a Fish", Maya vividly describes a fallen tree:

A single dead
redwood has falled across the creek, creating
thousands of shadows. The inside is clean and hollowed
out. Old and moss-shagged, it has been here
awhile. Inside the meter-wide hollow, stones lie
as neat and poised as though someone had
arranged them.

A shaft of light cuts straight through the water - at
certain times of the day, the entire hollow is suffused
with a thick glow. In a flood, this place would be an
ideal rest stop for salmon and steelhead. Filled to the
brim with water, it is stillness in a rushing world.

ISBN 1-883869-27-7

webAlso available from Maya Khosla: 
Heart of the Tearing
Publisher: Red Dust, Incorporated

Hardcover / Published: September 1995

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The Delicate Art of Whale Watching

Available for purchase online from Amazon, this gentle combination of poetry and prose by Joana McIntyre is a study in slowing modern life down to a more livable pace , The Marine Book & Navigation Center). She talks about tourists coming to Hawai'i to see whales - the kind of whales that only exist in someone's imagination. She describes her life on Lanai'i and how she learned what island living has to teach, the lesson of slowing down to live life. Here are some excerpts I thoroughly appreciated.

I enjoyed the "The Story of the Whale Watchers", about tourists who come from far away just to see the whale. She speaks of when they sleep:

While the people were sleeping
in the room
listening to the air conditioner
the whales were drifting
in the star-filled water

listening to the singing
coming from the fish
and the snails
watching the blur of neon light
as the fish cruised
or slept in their caves
drifting in the water
bodies bobbing in the surge.

While the people were sleeping
and the wind blowing
outside the windows
the deer were resting under the trees
backs to the wind
dark star-filled eyes

In the morning the maid comes into the room
and makes the bed
empties the ashtrays
and closing and locking the big glass doors
sprays room freshener
on the carpet and the drapes
and locks the door and leaves
the room humming with the sound of water
running through the pipes
the smell of perfume
settling on the bed..

Having looked the creature right in the eye, I can relate to what Joana has to say for camera buffs in the Chapter entitled "Looking Again": I have seen people on a boat, centered in the glowing circle of blue sky, blue sea, and pastel islands for a few precious minutes of their lives, miss all that happened just next to them because the camera had to be wound or the lens wouldn't focus at the right time. So, instead of leaving with something seen fully with eyes open, they have only the frustration of the missed picture, which if achieved, would only have given them a small grey speck on a tiny square of plastic and would never have given the rose-blown memory of whale breathing or the great crash as she plummets back into the sea. The picture would never give them her eye, looking squarely and cleanly into theirs, as creature gazed at creature, companions under the sun.

I recommend this excerpt for those who are squeamish about spiders:

Animals and fish are exquisitely lovely. One day I summoned the courage to handle the dry body of the brown spider lying on my desk; I saw there, almost faded, the delicate beige linings of her markings and the tiny withered dry mouth that once seemed so formidable in my dreams. My first visions of spiders came from comics, rather than from the brown-striped face of the spider. And I feel that the feel of the dead spider in my hand is not much different from a feather; only the idea, the thought of the feel is so disconcerting.

Be sure to check your library for a copy of this wonderful book. Or pick one up online from Amazon.

And finally some wise words on simplicity and thought, especially poignant for intellectuals:

Althought I cannot say that I saw enough of whales and porps to offer anything more than a glimpse, what I did see, and still see, seems to confirm that simplicity. They swim, they they feed, they bear babies and caress each other, and fill their days and nights with what looks like love and play. If they think great thoughts, which was once and idea with much appeal for me, they keep it well hidden. I know now that thought is a minor and flaccid thing compared with grace of movement or with love given and received.

ISBN 0-87156-550-1

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