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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

“Earth, Sometimes I Try to Play It Casual”

Air Date: Week of

“Earth, what I want is to sit gentle under your twilight purple.” – Catherine Pierce (Photo: Bowen Chin, Unsplash)

Poet Catherine Pierce joins Living on Earth’s Jenni Doering to read her poem, “Earth, Sometimes I Try to Play It Casual” and her thoughts about the meaning of “celebrating the Earth” by being present to the wonders around us.


CURWOOD: Now Living on Earth’s Jenni Doering is here with one of our favorite poets.

DOERING: Yes Steve, I spoke with acclaimed poet Catherine Pierce about her poem, “Earth, sometimes I try to play it casual.” First let’s listen to her read the poem.

Earth, Sometimes I Try to Play It Casual

like Hey mercury, hey malachite, I’m busy today,
can’t stop to marvel,
but always my blood is saying
O god you starsprung miracle. It’s self-preservation,

letting myself believe laundry matters,
letting myself believe there’s anything other than
egrets and oceans and vast moss carpets and

the finite heart of every single person I love.
Earth, you terrify me—you are fierce green
and honeysuckle, you are herds of wild ponies,

and you are leaving, always. Is it any wonder
some days I look at my laptop instead of out
the window? Every time I glance up

there you are, quaking me with your fern fronds
and silver frost. O you of the rhyolite mountains.
You of the dew-hung web. You are lemon quartz

and quicksand. Muskrats and starfish. How
could I be any way but staggered? O blue spruce,
O white fir, O green forever, you know

my nonchalance is a sham. It’s so hard to admit
our real desires. Earth, what I want is to sit gentle
under your twilight purple, watch your bats

hunt and dive. What I want is to know about
endings and still love each wingbeat, each shade
of the boundless, darkening sky.

Catherine Pierce is the author of four books of poems including Danger Days and The Tornado Is the World and is professor of English and co-director of the creative writing program at Mississippi State University. (Photo: Megan Bean / Mississippi State University)

DOERING: We’re calling this a celebration of the earth because I think it's easy for us to forget just how lucky we are to be walking around on this planet, our one and only home. What is the phrase "celebration of the earth" mean to you when you hear that?

PIERCE: To me, it means a couple of things. It means acknowledging everything, being aware of everything, sort of taking that moment to say, oh my gosh, I'm looking out my window right now, and I'm seeing daffodils that are starting to bloom and some hyacinths back there. And I live by the woods, and I can see these turkey vultures, always turkey vultures flying overhead. And it's amazing, I mean, turkey vultures are terrifying, but they're also absolutely incredible creatures. They're huge. And I see them every day. And I think, wow, this is an amazing thing to be looking at. It's just by my house and I get to watch these birds fly around. So I think part of celebrating the earth is taking those moments to just be aware of these things, to pay attention to all these things around us. And then I think the other part of it for me is finding a way to let ourselves experience the joy of this planet and all of its wonders, even as we're aware of the crisis that it's in. To give ourselves permission to say, yeah, we can enjoy this, we can celebrate this, we can marvel over this and also be aware that there is a very, very serious problem that is continuing daily and getting worse and that we need to fix. And so I think celebrating is a huge part of that. The celebration is what can kind of help spur us to action to make things better.

DOERING: Thanks! Catherine Pierce is the poet Laureate of Mississippi. Her latest book is called Danger Days.



Catherine Pierce’s website

Find Catherine Pierce’s book of poetry, “Danger Days”, here (Affiliate link supports LOE & indie bookstores)


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