But this is different

I remember hot tar on the crepe soles of sandals

On a walking day in Lancashire.


But this is different, when gas from deep tar

Rattles the dishes and burns up the air.


I remember the radiation scares and Strontium 90

Falling on fields and nearby houses,

Windscale, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl.


But this is different, as human error and rising seas

Capture and contaminate whole oceans at Fukushima and Sizewell.


I remember deluges in Peconic, Jos and Bourriège.

Electric storms, forks and flashes, rattling iron sheets.


But this is different, when rain combines with tidal surges

And takes away soil and crops, animals and homes, friends and family.


I remember black nostrils and blacker snot.

A small face, part hidden by a striped school scarf,

Left with a blackened lone ranger eye-mask of soot.


But this is different, when bodies now contain

What humans have created from fossil fuels and ingenuity.


I remember Manhattan from afar,

Crushed dark smog under daylong temperature inversions.


But this is different, when the smoke is continental

And big trees burn for the first time.


I remember frozen seas in Long Island Sound and Helsinki harbour,

Blizzards on the Auvergne high roads,

Midsummer snow in Pyrenean mountain towns.


But this is different: kangaroos bouncing in snow.


I remember TV weather forecasts that flashed on screen

For five whole days – HOT 100, HUMID 100.


But now, in Celsius, this is different.

Thirty-five, forty, forty-five degrees

Too far past the gentle rhythmic heat wave or canicule.



I remember long lines of flame across the savannah,

See the charred hillsides of Catalonia.

Northern fields once smoked for months from slag fires below.


But this is different. The polar and equatorial regions burn.

The tundra burns. Asian islands burn. Oxygen burns away.


I remember following a giraffe along the road,

All around, elephants, wildebeest and zebra.

Sometimes hunted; sometimes poached.


But this is different. Carcasses of beast, starving or dismembered,

Litter a continent.


I remember a neighbour, a joiner, keeping bees.

We ate the honey and enjoyed loud buzzing.


But this is different. No more insect-covered windscreens,

No loudness in the glade, fewer birds and bees to tell of.


I remember blackouts, cascading across cities in the tri-state area,

Three-day weeks. Generators kicked in, Tilly lamps and candles.


But this is different. Switches trip and don’t recover.


I remember sand in the air that stopped all flying

By birds and heavier-than-air machines.

Desert dust from further south, or ash from far away eruptions,

Took its time before an all clear.


But this is different. No clear view ahead

And no return to what was clear before.


I remember talk of nuclear winter,

Of ozone holes and ultra-violet dangers:

Stirring of a thought that something must be done.

It wasn’t.


But this is different. There has been no stop to the wasting and the spoiling;

No remedy to carelessness and greed,

Exploitation and grasping.


Now, this is different, and, while we still remember,

The future no longer issues from the past.


Now we must prepare to live or die,

In calm or chaos,

With dignity or despair.


For this is different.