Bucolic Dystopia —by Jinny Batterson
My sister’s small farm suffered last summer.
Rains came in torrents, or not at all.
Temperatures soared; tempers frayed.
The cow calved, then keeled over dead–
Likely from lack of calcium, the vet said, afterwards.
When the hail hit in staccato bursts, as wind from
A blackened sky whipped at the roof,
Light and delight both seemed extinguished.
After a storm, it was impossible not to track
Mud indoors. In dry times, dust seeped everywhere.
In September, I visited my usually sunny sister.
Her in-person mantra belied the optimistic message
On her answering machine. Rather than talk of
Nature’s beauty, bounty, and balance, she
Spoke instead of dark, dirt, and death.
Surrounding market towns that once had
Boomed with mills and small factories were
Struggling. Good-paying jobs were being
Replaced by robots, or else leaving for
Places with lower costs and laxer rules.
A small living was still possible through tourism.
Soft-skinned visitors from more urban areas
Came seeking a quieter, simpler existence.
For short stretches, local inns and B&B’s could
Simulate the slower, muted rhythms of earlier rural life.
It was tempting to blame some distant bureaucrat,
A too-rigid regulation, an absent fat cat,
For the ongoing distress, to look to some bullying
Billionaire to fix things and bring back prosperity.
Meanwhile, glaciers, whole ice sheets, dissolved.
We all share responsibility for the mess we’ve
Created. A colleague whose childhood farmstead
Now sprouted McMansions lamented: “You can’t eat money.”
The Gospels admonish: “What will it profit a person to
Gain the whole world, but lose his or her own soul?”
Questions both broader and deeper than the dyslexia
Of mixing up our b’s and d’s arise: Can we find the
Will to bring forth more beauty, bounty and balance
Without denying that dark, dirt, and death
Will also always be part of the mix?