Remembering the river burning, near Pittsburgh,
yes near Pittsburgh and then meeting poets
poets from Pittsburgh who said the air was the color of chalk

Talk of climate disruption is as old as that story
More than 50 years ago and now there are glaciers
Melting faster than that river burned.

Nostalgia is dangerous—that burning river’s spark
Began many years before the flames burst free

Those good old days were not all that good, but the beer
was cheap and so were the lives of working people.

The children of the people who lived near the burning river
now work in tech or hospitals or hotels and resorts
their hands are dipped in different chemicals, but the

Flare for the destruction lingers—a smoky reminder
of industrial waste. Saving this planet is decades old
So old that children now scream at those who banked the flames.

Are we sparking our own mass destruction, mass extinction?
Or have marching children lit a different, more ardent fire
How the planet’s winds spread fire is up to humans
commanding combustion. Oh Fools and Bumblers

Hesitate this moment and those bunkers built way way down
Will spin into that Ray Bradbury story whose title comes from
Sara Teasdale’s anti-war poem with but one reference to flame.

There Will Come Soft Rains is a poem by Sara Teasdale written during the height of World War I and first published in Harpers Magazine in 1918. Ray Bradbury used the title for his short science fiction story, first published in 1950 and included in The Martian Chronicles. Both works express deep anxiety about human extinction due to war.

About the Author

Patricia Spears Jones is poet, playwright, anthologist, educator and cultural activist. She is the winner of the 2017 Jackson Poetry Prize from Poets & Writers. She is author of A Lucent Fire: New and Selected Poems and 10 other poetry collections and in anthologies such as Of Poetry and Protest: From Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin; BAX: Best American Experimental Writing, 2016: 2017 Pushcart Prize XLI, Best of Small Presses; and Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry. Patricia has taught at Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, Truro Center for the Arts, Fine Arts Work Center, The Gathering, Poets House, Gemini Ink, Wild Seeds Conference for Medgar Evers College, Brooklyn Poets and at Adelphi University, CUNY, and Barnard College. She is organizer of the American Poets Congress and is a Senior Fellow Emeritus of the Black Earth Institute.

To comment on this article, please click here.

Return to top