In recognition of Earth Day I’ve got a poem by Patricia Kathleen Page, born in Dorset, England in 1916. She and her family moved to Red Deer, Alberta, in 1919, so that her father could advance his career in the Canadian military. Her first book was a romantic novel called The Sun and the Moon (1944), which she published under the pseudonym Judith Cape, 2 years later, in 1946 she published her first solo book of poetry As Ten, as Twenty, under her real name. In her lifetime, Page published more than two dozen books — spanning poetry, fiction, non-fiction and children’s literature — and also developed a parallel career as an accomplished painter, after studying under artists in Brazil and New York.
In 2000, Page’s poem Planet Earth, inspired by four lines from a longer poem by Chilean writer Pablo Neruda, was chosen by the United Nations for its Dialogue Among Civilizations Through Poetry reading series. This is like a love poem to the earth. An assertion that we need to treat it like a precious object, thereby making it stronger. From The Hidden Room, Collected Poems, it’s:
By PK Page
It has to be spread out, the skin of this planet,
has to be ironed, the sea in its whiteness;
and the hands keep on moving,
smoothing the holy surfaces.
—– In Praise of Ironing by Pablo Neruda
It has to be loved the way a laundress loves her linens,
the way she moves her hands caressing the fine muslins
knowing their warp and woof,
like a lover coaxing, or a mother praising.
It has to be loved as if it were embroidered
with flowers and birds and two joined hearts upon it.
It has to be stretched and stroked.
It has to be celebrated.
O this great beloved world and all the creatures in it.
It has to be spread out, the skin of this planet.
The trees must be washed, and the grasses and mosses.
They have to be polished as if made of green brass.
The rivers and little streams with their hidden cresses
and pale-coloured pebbles
and their fool’s gold
must be washed and starched or shined into brightness,
the sheets of lake water
smoothed with the hand
and the foam of the oceans pressed into neatness.
It has to be ironed, the sea in its whiteness
and pleated and goffered, the flower-blue sea
the protean, wine-dark, grey, green, sea
with its metres of satin and bolts of brocade.
And sky – such an O! overhead – night and day
must be burnished and rubbed
by hands that are loving
so the blue blazons forth
and the stars keep on shining
within and above
and the hands keep on moving.
It has to be made bright, the skin of this planet
till it shines in the sun like gold leaf.
Archangels then will attend to its metals
and polish the rods of its rain.
Seraphim will stop singing hosannas
to shower it with blessings and blisses and praises
and, newly in love,
we must draw it and paint it
our pencils and brushes and loving caresses
smoothing the holy surfaces.