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Incantation, a poem by Linsey Abrams in Global City Review Issue 25: Do We Have a Future?

Financiers, titans of industry, oil magnates
the slipshod makers of medicines that addict
and products no one needs—
Traffickers of girls,
gang rapists and priests
or the lone wolves
that have no church—
your middle name is Harm.
You aspire to successes
featuring land dumps
and plastic bottles
buoyed by the ocean to shore.
You battle jungles
the home of countless species
we know and don’t. Burn it down?
Billionaires inspire you.          
You have ruined the Earth
and you call the devastation progress.

Right now, the magnetized North Pole is heading 
swiftly for Siberia. Some say London.
Why would that divergence be?
It’s a mystery at least to me.
There is more to heaven and earth, Horatio,
than is dreamt of in your philosophy.

In our millennial past
the North and South Poles switched positions.
Ten times or more. Definitely more. 
When the Poles reverse, they say
the guts of space
now restrained by a force field—crazy, no?—could rain down upon us
spewing aliens we saw on cable.              
The History Channel, which explains a lot.

You have no idea, do you,
that a molten core of our planet
1,800 feet down is roiling.
No idea, in fact
of anything below your feet.
Mother Earth is your province
to be drilled, skinned
stuffed with your trash and plutonium.
Species succumb, two by two.
You’ve created the anti-Ark.

I am repelled by spiders and snakes
but will go to bat for them.
The fish and the birds with their intermittent die-offs
floating belly up or dropping to ground
soon to be stiff as pinecones.
O the woebegone bees!
These are my charges too.
Surely, they are no less important
than the children
if looked at as the pollinators
of all vegetation, everywhere, which they are.
Half of them dead in their hives.
The other half dancing.
Fuck you, Monsanto, with your weed-killer that “rounds up”
and over time kills every animal, vegetable and maybe mineral.
Round Up in the water. Round Up in the soil. Round Up inside
all creatures, with a half-life of years beyond measure.
Purveyors of poison
you serve your shareholders. 
How did we get so far from our earthly purpose?         


Everywhere daughters are molded to men’s cultures.
Even the young covered from head to toe            
in cloth.
A slit for eyes, everything but peripheral vision.
Did the garment, I’ll call it, have to be black?
And why must little girls be hacked between their legs?
Soul murder, I heard it called.
A western woman interviewed a Malian sister
who said In all my life till now
no one ever asked me a question.

Addressed to the cosmos:
No more!

One brave Israeli girl
called a hotline
to escape the ultra-Orthodox
The leavers, they’re called
can start new lives in a safe-house near Jerusalem.             
They are afraid of their families
but also of the world.
The escape artist
had never talked to a stranger
but saw the sticker with the phone number on a wall
before it was ripped down.
She called on the family line.   
Time would expire when the bill came.
No TV, no radio
no bus rides or driver’ss license,
no deodorant, no tampons. No walks.   

Not even the Torah
or a glimmer of transcendence.
No history beyond their sect’s greatest hits.
Men played all the music, so to speak.
Did the maps of Hungary show the town
where their Hassidic founder
began the 19th century?                
The result was one man’s sour craving
for self-refusal.
Meanwhile, no smart phones, no Internet,    
no Math or Science. No Art.
The unvarnished truth:
our heroine                                  
didn’t even know they existed.
And brace yourself: when she saw her first library
she wept. Now all she does is read.
She’s lost weight. But that’s not the point, people.
You deserve the horizon
that separates the sea and sky.

It is never a crime to imagine people you are not.
Otherwise we’re doomed.
If this is heretical—OK Boomer—so what?
In fact, we are the Bi-Millennials
a generation that comes along
every thousand years
to sew the cross-stitches
that bind endings to all beginnings.
Eras are like continents.
We have traveled through time without moving
sometimes seeing a future beyond our own.
Yes, it’s marvelous…
as so much of the world is.


I recall a man
at the Natural History Museum
who didn’t know his own nature.
When vegetable and mineral were ruled out
he became upset at the only category left:
The Kingdom Animalia.
The man rushed from the Q & A
but couldn’t outrun his body.
We are related to most living things
the anthropologist said in closing
including plankton and the blue whales.
If you see the reluctant animal
near the dinosaur skeleton, Tell him.
Take it in. Take it all in.
Go to

In the same Museum
we have regarded the
ends of civilizations and habitats
the disappearance of creatures
we’d be appalled to meet.               
Now we’re appalled by humans.
We are so brilliant about the past
and so empty about the future.
Why is it that the more we learn
the more we forget?
It’s a lack of awe.      
I mean, tell me anything that’s still sacred.


Life asks its questions in code.
Like with the Sphinx
there’s always too much you don’t know.
The Poles are in constant motion, it turns out.
Another variable.
Still, the distance from where each started
is measured always from true north.
True north, an algorithm that does not change.
Our immutable beloved.

What we know and feel mirrors
The unfathomable
intricacy of living
and how unlikely it all is.
The uncaused symmetry:
how earth’s magnetic field
shields us from space radiation. Space?
And how without gravity and its law,
life on Earth would be long gone,
spun to Eternity.

You know
consciousness is the outcome 
of 3.5 billion years of Evolution
whether you believe it or not.
There are so many dazzling questions
to be asked
including this one:
Have you ever wondered why
we can hold in our heads the vast world
while existing only within it?
Language, our arbitrary and greatest gift,
describes its mercurial boundaries.
What we can imagine
we can preserve, or effect a sea change
our own uncanny purpose. 

Linsey Abrams has published the novels Our History in New York, Double Vision, and Charting by the StarsHer short fiction and poems have been published widely, in such venues as InterlitQ, 13th Moon, BOMB, and Glimmer Train. Her stories were finalists for the Mississippi Review Fiction Prize and the Nelson Algren Award, and won a Pushcart Prize. She was a member of the faculty at Sarah Lawrence College then The City College of New York, and was writer-in residence at the Harvey Milk School in its early years.