The Selk’nam believe
at one time, long ago,

people did not die.
After many lives

they grew tired
of being human

and so fell into
an extended sleep

in which they were

into trees, rocks,
clouds and creatures,

after which they woke
strange and refreshed.


The descent from 10,300
to 7,000 feet is quicker,

hard on the knees and thighs,
an utterly different trip.

In a few weeks extreme drought
will close the trail

with the Jemez Fire, Pecos Fire,
Silver Fire, Black Forest Fire

ablaze, on the same day 62 million
in the Midwest prepare

for a gargantuan storm system,
the same day orange signs

go up along the Paseo
del Bosque Trail,

extreme fire danger,
extreme fire danger,

the same day the governor
shuts down the Rio Grande

watershed in three counties,
the same afternoon I cycle

south from the BioPark
along the Barr Canal,

where the Desert Cottontail
race me for short distances

on the bike path, where
the skunk family crosses,

crowds the burrow
and disappears,

where beavers leave their marks
on the pointed stumps of trees,

where the trail gradually unfolds
from small farms

to industrial flatland, along
the concrete diversion channel,

where a few wan trees hum
see and see. The lone survivor

of the Yarnell Hill Fire fled
his lookout post as the wind

whipped the flames
and they suddenly

changed direction. The blaze
consumed his perch, chased

the other 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots
into a valley—the worst place,

the place where their only choice
was to wriggle into

their silver, pod-like heat bags
and pray—as the fire

roared through, taking them all.
And the one just a short

distance away. All he could do:


In 2013 thirty-three juvenile
Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins

washed up dead on the beaches
of St. Vincent’s Gulph.

by heat stress, they succumbed

quickly to the morbillivirus,
transmitting it to others

in their close-knit pods.


To the left of the trail we spot
the little nipple cactus,

Mammillaria meiacantha,
tiny labyrinthine bowl

ringed with white flowers.
It can grow and thrive

between rocks, up and through
asphalt cracks, with only

a few drops of water. Boil
the pulp and apply the mush

for an earache. On the map
I see we are too far north

for this variety, but I think
I’m rightly identifying it,

elongated and scarlet fruit,
yellow anthers, now hot

and dry enough at this elevation
to take root. The black

and yellow Atelopus zeteki,
Panamanian Golden Frog,

communicates via semaphore,
waving at rivals

and prospective mates.
In local mythology

it was thought that in death
it turned to gold.

Even one sighting predicts
good fortune.

Once saved from extinction-
by-poaching, now it survives

only in captivity—rising
temperatures in the mountains

spur evaporation, promote
cloud formation, decrease

day temperatures, raise night-time
highs, igniting the deadly

chytrid fungus, thickening
zeteki’s delicate skin,

triggering cardiac arrest.


Ophiopogon japonicus,
also called Mondo Grass,

requires no fertilizer,
is rarely affected

by insects or disease,
adjusts deftly to changes

in water conditions. Admired
for its tenaciousness

Ophiopogon now shows signs
of decreasing resilience,

approaching a threshold
at which it cannot survive.

Araucaria araucana,
the living fossil,

was alive 200 million
years ago, in the time

of the dinosaurs. Its trunk
is thick, reptilian,

fire-resistant. Heavily logged
for over 100 years,

the International Union
for Conservation of Nature

has declared its status:
critically endangered.

Kim Sooja’s Needle Woman
stands motionless

in the vortices of six
of the most populous cities.

Filmed from the back,
it’s the stillness

of her head, shoulders,
and black braid—

the masses move toward her,
around, and past.

It must take everything
to hold her place

in the chaos. And I want it—
still, stillness.

Make it stop.


Robert M. Carter, retired Professor,
James Cook University,

notable climate change skeptic,
offers Ten Facts & Ten Myths

on Climate Change, a platform
upon which to stand against

the prevailing wave of warnings:
The United Nations

Intergovernmental Panel
is the main scaremonger

for the global warming lobby …
Climate has always changed,

and always will. The only sensible
thing to do is prepare for it.

Anyway, the girl never really turns,
never shows her inscrutable face,

and it is the smallness in her elbow,
something delicate

about her calf, and I know
I’m supposed to know

what ankle, cotton, water,
and dark hair signify

in this amalgamation—
a pictogram I study

even while sleeping
for every detail of cloud,

breaker, sleeve, bones
still young enough

to ache at night, lengthening,
growing denser by the hour.


I listen  to the Climate Dialogues
as if I too am a skeptic,

in an effort to understand
who I am not, someone

so different she seems
a member of an alien race—

bright-winged, prescient.
I maintain my skeptical stance

for almost the entire podcast,
log off, switch on

the evening news to wildfires,
and hurricanes. But,

for a short time I did feel
a sense of certainty.

The earth is old and changeable.
Nature’s cycles are long.

This, too, will pass, and our children
will continue to produce

children who birth their own,
and so forth and so on.


Little JR recites, for me,
Genesis 1:26. At seven

he is remarkably fluent
in the memorization

of Bible verses. His evangelical
church and school

give him supreme confidence
in the sovereignty

of the human race.
It helps and hurts

that he is unusually intelligent,
asking why, Auntie,

do you have photos of yellow frogs,
forest fires, maps of islands

and beaches over your desk?
He listens earnestly

as I explain, places his small arm
around me, tells me not

to worry. God
will take care of it.


According to the Wintu,
people came into existence late,

devoured water and land
at an alarming rate.

One man dreamed a whirlwind;
the others knew

this was a bad sign. They fled
to an earth lodge

as the winds started up,
taking down the trees.

The dreamer remained outside,
pressed up against

a nearby post, telling the others
what was coming: more

thunder, wind, rain. All the houses
blew or were swept away

but the dreamer held tight,
telling his people

the story of water. Finally,
the earth lodge lifted,

and then the post, and then
the dreamer, too,

and nothing was left
but water over the earth.


For three consecutive nights
I dream we are stick figures

in a giant earth tome: a book
of mudslides, a book

of super storms, a book
of drought-devastated fields

inside which we tumble
like the drawings at Puako—

right side up, sideways, flipped.
Are we singing?

Are we dancing? Are we waving
frantically in distress?

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Valerie Martinez is a poet, translator, and teacher. Her books of poetry include Absence, Luminescent, World to World, and And They Called It Horizon. She has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.


Please enter a valid email address
That address is already in use
The security code entered was incorrect
Thanks for signing up