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POETRY / Cento for Rachel Carson: The Obligation to Endure / Carla Sofia Ferreira / Writer of the Month


“Why should we tolerate a diet of weak poisons, a home in insipid surroundings, a circle of acquaintances who are not quite our enemies, the noise of motors with just enough relief
to prevent insanity? Who would want to live in a world which is just not quite fatal?”
— Paul Shepard, ecologist


When the public protests,

                                                it is fed little tranquilizing pills of



            the sugar
                                    of un

This is an era
of specialists, each
sees his own problem

and is un
aware of or in
tolerant of
the larger
frame into which
it fits.

We allow the chemical death rain
            for this insect-free world—  

Nature has introduced great variety
            into the landscape, but man

has displayed a passion for
            simplifying it.

                                                                         Future historians may

be amazed
by our distorted sense

of proportion:

how could

intelligent beings

seek to control

a few unwanted species 

by a method that contaminated
the entire environment
and brought the threat
of disease and death
even to their own

Some would-be architects of our future
tamper with the atom:
                                                oh time, time
                                                is the essential ingredient; but
                                                                                    in the modern world
                                                                                    there is no time.

Life on earth
            has been a history
                        of interaction
                                    between living
                                                things and their

only within the present century has one species— man — acquired significant power to alter the nature of his world.

What we have taken:                                                                                            we cannot get back.



N.B.: This poem is (mostly) an erasure of Rachel Carson’s second chapter of Silent Spring, “The Obligation to Endure.”

Carla Sofia Ferreira is a Portuguese-American poet from Newark, New Jersey. Author of the microchap, Ironbound Fados (Ghost City Press 2019), her poems and book reviews live in such lit communities as Cotton Xenomorph; underblong; The Rumpus; and Glass. A recipient of fellowships from DreamYard Rad(ical) Poetry Consortium and Sundress Academy for the Arts, she is a co-editor for a forthcoming anthology of immigrant and first-generation American poetry whose proceeds will benefit RAICES. As a high school English teacher, she believes in kindness, semicolons, and that ICE needs to be permanently abolished.