(for Octavia E. Butler, 1947–2006)

The heat awaiting
on the other side 
she placed her hand 
then ours
against the wall
immensity of burning
in her books 
the pages turning 
into a fire detected 
while we elected
not to feel or see
the rising temperature of
she wrote we read 
it happened anyway
as she had said
where profit
pushed aside
the prophet
who stood Black and tall
West and Southwest all
great swaths of earth 
no longer arable
a parable
of sowing just
to reap 
our dust 
and make the future


This poem is dedicated to the pioneering Afrofuturist, Octavia E. Butler, who died suddenly in 2006, but not before completing two of the most important works of dystopian ecofeminist fiction of the late-twentieth century—Parable of the Sower (1993) and Parable of the Talents (1998). In the first of these, in particular, she looked at the California landscape she knew so well and projected the horrors that soon would befall it: never-ending drought and raging wildfires, along with the increasing privatization of all resources and the triumph of corporate greed. She told us that the first to suffer would be the poor, as well as Black and Brown communities. Today, we live without the benefit of her guiding vision, but still with the wisdom of her warnings. 

About the Author

Margaret D. Stetz is the Mae and Robert Carter Professor of Women’s Studies and Professor of Humanities at the University of Delaware. She is also a poet, and her work has appeared recently in A Plate of Pandemic, C*nsorship Magazine, Kerning, Mono, Review Americana, Rushing Thru the Dark, West Trestle Review, Existere, Azure, Literary Cocktail Magazine, and other journals, as well as in the Washington Post.

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