If you stand at the edge of the forest
And stare into iit
Every tree at the edge will blow a little extra oxygen toward you…

From “Ancient Language” by Hannah Stevenson, which inspired the following poem.

A significant part of the Earth Jam 2021 Opening Ceremony was a deep dive into the four elements: Earth,  Air, Water, and Fire. We did this by resting in four poems — one for each element. After the reading of each element-specific poem the participants were invited to notice personal impressions, memories or experiences associated with that element. They were invited to share a short sample of those in the chat.

As these offerings were read — there was an energy, a power which comes from naming the truth of what we are experiencing as we find ourselves in a world we don’t recognize — marked by heat, fire, vulnerability and uncertainty. And also, paradoxically, at the same time, a world we know and love, full of sustaining beauty of immeasurable kinds. 

Tonya Lailey took  the phrases and descriptions that were shared and created four “cento” (latin for “patchwork” or “collage”) poems

Through these poems we have gathered some of the mystery, beauty, joy, fear and grief that permeates our current experience of Earth, Air, Water and Fire.

Air in Us


in my hair, standing, 
I am nowhere, I am being 		everywhere 

clear and fresh, 
then smokey and suffocating

air        dense with ash, 
blue skies & fresh 

air (a relief)

crisp mountain 		air
eerie orange skies

hot      air          with smoke 
lying among the trees. 

A sky dome of incandescent 
orange turning murky 

red and then 
black. How hard 
to breathe. 

The    air      with tension 
carried             the ashes 

of thousands 
of trees, 

around us.
Air:          sorrow, sorrow: 

life vaporized
the quiet despair 

of days upon days 
of smoke filled skies

then the giddy relief 
of blue - blessed blue

when cool        air       arrived 
I wanted to drink it

a sudden rush of cold 
wind, whipping tablecloths, 

sending women for blankets 
to wrap around shoulders

overnight the      air      thickens 
inside the tent I share with four 

other people breathing, smoke 
heavy through the screen

deep breaths 
as the morning sun rises

sadness, loss and despair 
as I gaze through the thick 

smoke across the common 
green in my neighbourhood

soft gentle breezes 
and powerful gusts, 

enough to knock you over, 
each time 
I walk outside 
I attend 

to each fragrance 
of the day, 
sweet florals and then 
the smoke, 

the anxiety that pervades 
the day
heavy blanket 
of smoke, 

welcoming rain 
and cooler breezes
heading out 

into Lake Huron 

at sunrise on a sailboat 
to get ahead of heavy 
gusts from the north 
and already feeling 
the might of the wind
in the waves and swells

the wind               in my sails, I was wisped away to an island 

that seemed like the centre of all creation.