Devil heat makes a bad wind blow
Blow deep into another
Desperate need, charred heart awoke
A sister stranger brother
Demon seed, the burnt wood choke
On star-scorched father mother
Devil sun, even the sick blooms grow
Bleed deep into another
Inspired by: Andrea Gilbert’s Changing Animals, 2017, a collection of symbols that explore how animals are impacted by climate change
Symbol: #36 of 45
Poetic Form: As Gilbert is an American designer, I wanted to do a form that was uniquely American, and my research brought me to blues poetry. There are generally three lines in the blues stanza, with the second line repeating the first and the third line bringing home the rhyme—all written in a driving rhythm that they say sounds like a heartbeat. Langston Hughes’ work is typically cited as examples of blues poems, or you can just cue up Howlin’ Wolf or Leadbelly.
Process: Gilbert’s symbol #36 represents one of the many impacts of climate change—crossbreeding. Because habitats are destroyed and others change and overlap into one another, species that would normally not have encountered one another are now mating. The story and theme lent themselves unbelievably to the blues, which is most often about love gone bad somehow. I did very minimal research so the “facts” wouldn’t get in the way, pretty much just grabbing a couple sentences of simple explanation as to why climate change has caused crossbreeding. As you may notice, the poem is not written in three-line stanzas—it sounded all wrong no matter how hard I tried, so I just went with it. And wow, it went to a pretty dark place—not about animals at all, yet perhaps fitting for the way we humans have treated our environment.