"Green Burial Unsonnet" by Dante Di Stefano

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May 12, 2024

Green Burial Unsonnet

Dante Di Stefano

In   the   milliseconds   &      minutes     &  
millennia  when   I    no   longer   am   the  
bundle of meat & need  unpoeming  itself  
in   the still   hours   of  a   full   or   empty  
house,  I  dream  my  eye socket   encased  
underground   with    root    &   worm    &  
watershed threading  through it.  |  |  The  
summers   become  hotter  &   hotter.  |  |  
Unbearable  &  luminous,  the  refrain  of  
the  song  of  extinction— 

My  children  &  my   children’s   children  
will  inherit   the  edges of cumulonimbus  
clouds,     the       unexpected      sunflower  
blooming   from   a     second-story     rain 
gutter,   the  gentleness   of   the  marbling 
sunlight  on  the  fur  of a  rabbit  stilled in  
a  suburban  backyard.  |  |  I  am  in   love 
 with    the   Earth.   |  |   There    are    still  
blackberries  enough   to  light the    brain  
with the star charts of a sweetness— 

&  yet  &  yet  &  yet, the  undertow  of  the  
expanding    universe     repeats    to     the  
mitochondria    in   my    cells.   The     tiny  
bluebird  in my throat continues  to  build  
her  nest   with  twigs   & mud  &  scraps of  
Amazon packing tape.  |  |   I feel  the  now 
of   now  fluttering   diastole  &  systole   in  
my  biceps  & lungs  &  toe  bones   |  |  The  
oranges  &  reds  &   yellows  of   my   many  
Octobers   leaf  to   life   &   spill   from   my  
mouth:  unaccountable  acorns,   midnight 
loam, overgrown meadows,  

a wee spore adrift among the fireflies—

Copyright © 2024 by Dante Di Stefano. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 12, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

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About the Treehouse Climate Action Poem Prize

Dante Di Stefano’s “Green Burial Unsonnet” is the third-place winner of the 2024 Treehouse Climate Action Poem Prize. Established in 2019 with generous support from Treehouse Investments, the prize is given to honor exceptional poems that help make real for readers the gravity of the vulnerable state of our environment at present. Beginning with Earth Day, Poem-a-Day will feature this year’s three winners on consecutive weekends. 

“A poem that wishes for human death not to leave as its legacy Amazon packing tape but rather to provide ongoing nourishment for others, ‘Green Burial Unsonnet’ embraces the paradox of one who intellectually understands their part in anthropogenic harm and experiences a vibrant love of the Earth: ‘There are still blackberries enough to light the brain with the star charts of a sweetness.’ ‘Green Burial Unsonnet,’ with its tightly packed prose poem paragraphs, suggests the body (the body’s grave?) in its enclosure and escapes it, exploring the dissonance and strange beauty of the human position in the world now—both of and outside of what pulses around us, beyond our built walls.”
Elizabeth Bradfield and Kate Marvel

“I would like to have a green burial someday. My wife and I often worry about the world our six-year-old daughter and two-year-old son will inherit and wonder what else we can do to preserve the Earth in all its beauty. This textbox prose poem ‘Unsonnet’ challenges the tradition of the sonnet (and lineated poetry) even as it enacts some of the form’s structural and lyrical mechanisms. This formal tension also calls to mind the tension between inherited social norms (our dependence on fossil fuels and factory farming, for example), and efforts to move into a more sustainable, greener future.”
—Dante Di Stefano

Dante Di Stefano
Dante Di Stefano is the author of Midwhistle (University of Wisconsin Press, 2023) and Ill Angels (Etruscan Press, 2019). He is the winner of the 2019 On Teaching Poem Prize, judged by Richard Blanco, and placed third in the 2020 Treehouse Climate Action Poem Prize, judged by Julia Alvarez and Bill McKibben. Di Stefano lives in Endwell, New York.

Midwhistle
(University of Wisconsin Press, 2023)

 


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