Website of poet Elizabeth Rimmer


  • Hope for Cop 28

    There isn’t much of it. But if ever we could get the powerful ones together and make them listen to us, it’s now. So here is a canto from my long eco-protest poem The Wren in the Ash Tree which was published in Haggards in 2018. The Outcry isn’t mine – it’s the ‘outcry of the earth, the outcry of the poor’ which The Papal Encyclical Laudato Si’ talks about. And, just to add to the timely references, the line ‘enough of blood and tears’ was said at the signing of the Norway accords between Israel and Palestine in 1993.

    Canto 1: The Outcry

    The hanging man says,
    ‘Outcry of grief
    goes up and down the world-tree,
    grumble of ravens and chattering classes
    in tweets and rumours on smartphones.
    Her leaves are nibbled by squirrels,
    in curtained bedrooms and behind
    the facades of abandoned shops,
    browsed to the bark by greedy stags,
    in city suits and plate-glassed offices
    her roots undermined by serpents
    wasting the soil. The hedges are down,
    the fenlands drained and the red dust
    is washed off suburban car fronts.’

    The wren is singing in the bramble bush.

    The woman at the ford says,
    ‘On one bank of the river,
    there is a lament for the fallen,
    on the other, the outcry
    of those who have lost everything,
    and there is never enough
    of blood or tears.’

    El duende says,
    ‘This is the place of pain.
    To sing here you will need
    to open the heart,
    the lungs and voice,
    and meet it square.
    You can’t sing from hiding,
    nor drunk or afraid.
    You can’t sing this softly
    like chocolate in the sun.
    You must give yourself
    to the fight with all your strength.
    It will take all you’ve got.
    It will feel like death.’

    The wren slips between the branches
    of the birch tree without a sound.

    And the field says,
    ‘You can’t write my music.
    There ain’t no sixteen bars,
    no twelve bar phrases here –
    field music comes bursting
    straight from the heart.’

    The city is silent.
    All the roundabouts
    are wearing flowers
    dressed in cellophane
    and there are soft toys
    on every doorstep.

    The song from the city is sung
    behind a proscenium arch,
    in other voices, not ours,
    And we are shamed by silence.

    The wren is hidden
    among the leaves of the ash
    and sings without ceasing.

    And the púca sings
    in the depths of the sea,
    ‘The water is poisoned with oil
    and the krill are scarce. We are hungry
    and choking on plastic.
    There are small boats, sinking
    beneath the weight of sorrow
    and the men with guns who turn
    the lost ones away from their coasts.’

    And the völva is casting the runes.
    The leather bag is thick,
    tough and unbending,
    and gives away no secrets,
    but the stones mutter
    and grind against each other.
    The black angular lines –
    tree, hammer, wealth,
    ocean, ice – will come together,
    fall in the right configuration,
    give their bleak verdict soon enough.

    The rune for harvest is the same
    as the rune for the day of reckoning.

    And the wren sings on the bare branches,
    sings without ceasing.

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