Public Narrative (or, why i am going to the UN climate negotiations in lima, peru)

living, as i often do,

in post-industrial cities,

i articulate reasons why

i am a writing educator –

the stories of our lives

matter. as roland barthes

once famously said,

i am interested in language

because it wounds or seduces me.

or, another, from laetitia sadler:

what’s society built on?

built on words. built on words.

in december i will fly thousands of miles

to speak my languages, all or at minimum

both, repeatedly, in chambers, in hallways.

the fate of the free world could be at stake.

tides are already beginning to rise.

at this prospect, i often feel bathed

in thoughts of blithe nihilism –

to return to the foot of the cordillera

of my birth and assert expertise

on storybook matters of urgency,

on the brisk urge to curtail

the droughts, the floods,

the heat, erosion, melting glaciers,

soil contamination, make a wake, a wake,

a wake, a wake, awake.

these are the stories i want to share:

a woman teaching sick workers in tijuana

how to forage clam shells for beads.

my friend mike, who is

a three-time cancer survivor

and aging prophet of lake charles, louisiana.

the taste and smell of houston air.

how oil and water don’t mix, not

in chalmette, not

in whiting, not

in loreto, not

in ogoniland.

the first community solar streetlight

ever to grace the streets

of highland park, michigan,

blocks from the birth of cars.

what heat exhaustion feels like.

how easy it can be to plant fruit trees.

the disarming joy of sharing a simple meal.

universal things.

i am going back home

to south america

because language either wounds

or seduces, and because

we build with words what we see –

we need a story that honors

who’s been failed, who we throw

away, who we’ll need (all of us)

to speak and see

with loving-kindness,

universal things – the romance

and boldness of care, stewardship,

for the earth, for each other.

for abolishing throwaway geography.


having said this, i

want to open up the discourse

and ask you

what you’d say

if you could go, too.

by Pablo Baeza


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