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Mary Bergman advocates for Deborah Landau

May 7, 2019 by Mary Bergman
Mary Bergman DL

Deborah Landau’s Soft Targets is a collection of poems that deal with the fear of annihilation that stems from violence, terrorist attacks, climate change, and the general turmoil we find ourselves surrounded by. This fear is one I know well, one that feels familiar.

When I walk along the beaches of our island, when I write about the houses that teeter on the edge of an eroding bluff face, I feel sometimes like I am trying to leave a record of the last decades of some great civilization. These are strange days, as we begin to witness the effects of sea level rise and know that things are only going to get worse. The sheer weight of all this knowing can crush you. I think it has crushed me.

Not too long ago, I was walking the wrack line along the north shore at night, where thousands of dinoflagellates had washed ashore. The plankton glittered in the shoreline like fallen stars. It was one moment of exquisite beauty--something that took me utterly out of myself.

Landau hits on this, the celebration of what we still have, in “the snow goes to the gallows of a warm grass and what survives”

The long drought makes blaze the plankton

makes smoke the ocean

and insincere the governments—

a demise indelicate.

We’re in deep jelly now

no cause for applause

but try a little clemency

my body is warm today, and yours,

we have this small span of time

and in this way we’re millionaires.

I think everyone would benefit from reading Landau’s work, as it so acutely captures the anxiety of our time, of how we go about our lives when the world is in such chaos.