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"Look What They Done to My Song, Ma"

I wrote a poem for Oberon and Morning Glory Zell in 2011. In 2021 it finally came to print in the form of an illustrated children's book:

Song of Gaea, Paean to the Soul of Nature. 


I have to admit: I'm a little embarrassed.

Some of the illustrations of my poem are beautiful and some are downright horrifying. However, if you look at them through the 3D glasses provided, especially with a little plant-medicine perception-enhancement, what you see is so throwback 60s-psychedelic it just might be a cult classic someday!

Most interesting to me is how the illustrations foreground some of the unconscious bias of Western thought that is present in the poem. To resolve my feelings of chagrin about what had become of my poem, I decided to write a sequel. I used the bias that had become glaringly obvious to me as a critical point of departure.

Song of Gaea 2, Ten Years' Later.

by Kirsten Ellen Johnsen, copyright 2021.


The problem right here that I have to admit

Indigenous Spiders in Space might not sit

Who am I to speak is the first thing to ask

And the answer won’t free me from injustice past



Knowing my place—what’s said stands even so

Stories are how we create what we know

That’s why it’s important to be clear just why

And who ’tis inspires to speak earth and speak sky



It’s totally true from the one point of view

That Hubble, Cassini and all of them drew

I don’t know about you but I love how they show

Space and Time interweave—As Above So Below



It’s this adage of old, the alchemist’s rede

That’s the point of the poem and the whole story’s seed

Every fairy tale tells us the same basic truth

It’s not rocket science, don’t need much of a sleuth



The Old Stories tell of our place in relation

Within webs of life—or we seal our damnation

Sorry to put it so stark but that’s fact

The Faustian bargain—Mephistopheles’ pact



The Lorax whose message my cadence invokes

Was always so clear on the impacts to folks

So warned by the Onceler, his wrongs did confess

As children we all heard his last words: Unless



The edge we’re all on is the Anthropocene

Age of Man as a Force: to our end we careen

Geology's now but a feature of Will

Humanity’s hunger can never fulfill



But the thing that’s essential to get is the pain

Of the folk and the critters who have suffered in vain

It’s only one paradigm made it this way

Long past has time gone for these folks to have say



Hegemonic desires are not easily laid

To rest or to question assumptions we’ve made

And the problem is urgent yet complex and fraught

We must try to unlearn all the shit we’ve been taught



First thing: I’ll admit I’ve presented a lie

Evolution can sometimes just all go awry

The image of Progress is used to oppress

And this is the reason we’re all in this mess



Wishful thinking is fun but there’s real work at hand

We must start by respecting Indigenous land

And continue to recognize slavery’s role

For capital gains: white supremacy’s toll



On the land and the people of Earth the world o’er

So remember good people of Gaia: to know her

Is to see her in every person and place

In diversity lies the true shape of her face



Which means there is never a singular road

To the truth or the path to the future to bode

There’s no ultimate outcome in commerce or space

All the Teslas the world can produce won’t erase



The fact that the damage that’s done will define

What relationship people have with the Divine

It's the force of the planet will render us all

To our humblest beginnings, the Old Hero’s Call



Peradventure, I say, might we happen to grok

How the land’s full of spirits who continue to talk

How our hubristic commerce still renders them mute

How the thing that we lost in relentless pursuit



Of the glory of arms or of wealth or of creed

Is the part of us still that’s in desperate need

Of our knowing of place and for blessing to bear

As if One Cosmological Purpose we share



But the point is there is none, though try as some might

To impose single-minded obeisance to Right

For the anima mundi hath multiple form

A god in each pocket, each soul to transform



This is the epic and these are the times

Gilgamesh unto Enkidu wroth crimes

Facing our animal nature we learn

Remembering kinful relations to turn



Turn back the plow, turn off engines, turn tail

On the monster machine that consumes without fail

Don’t believe when they say they’ve a perfect device

The things we produce won’t bring back Paradise



But only relation and only respect

And only through justice we hope to effect

The change that is needed: Yes, it comes from within

Just as taught by all myth from when time did begin



Who knows if we’ll get there in time to avert

A planet’s a planet—and never inert

And the physics that binds us to play but a part

Is itself subject to the same Mystery as art



By this what I mean is that Spirit is real

Rising up from the depths Destiny may reveal

May the Gods help us now, whoever they be

Now we’ve unleashed our doom, changing times we will see



Let us all do our best to protect those at risk

We must turn on a dime on this blue flying disk

Every act be in prayer, every moment to vow

That justice shall reign, for we only have now



There’s incredible power in nature to heal

We’ve got to have faith in Dame Fortune’s great wheel

The secret’s been all along found in respect

With this as our mantra, in each deed to reflect



The narrowest path just might chance to be crossed

Though our homes and our lives upon storms have been tossed

If a teaching doth Gaea intend to us give

It can only be so: by her life may we live.

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