Joyce Butler on “All Earth” and “My Own Sakura” (Ireland)
The inspiration for “All Earth” came from so much of the bad news in the media about global warming and the damage we are constantly inflicting on the environment. I imagined the earth to be at the very last stages of life and the poem is spoken in the voice of someone out there waiting to die with it:
“I wait until all earth is quiet
and land falls away,
one side a map
outshining blue light,”
In the first line, the speaker is waiting for the chaos of a dying earth to subside. The earth is collapsing into itself, like buildings in an earthquake, causing all of the countries to fall off to one side, while the remaining side is covered by blue sea. This brings with it a strange silence of:
“red deserts now
where we fall
one by one,
under a killing sun.”
The heat from the sun due to the earth’s diminished atmosphere starts to kill all the remaining people one by one:
“Our voices remain
under the sea,
calling out like dolphins
where our lives
The deserts and dead people have become submerged by the sea, yet the voices of their spirits remain. I wanted to soften the sadness of this image by using dolphins as a symbol, as they are intelligent, friendly creatures. I imagined their spirits trying to express to the universe where they came from so that they may never be forgotten. They hope the universe in turn will send their message out to other planets, so that the inhabitants would protect their own planets before it is too late.
My Own Sakura
As for “My Own Sakura”, I remember feeling an immediate, intense inspiration and grabbing my writer’s notebook whilst watching a television programme I saw, regarding the Cherry Blossom Festival celebrated every year in Japan. Within seconds I was making notes of so many beautiful words I had never heard before, like “Sakura” and “Hanami” along with the exotic place names of “Okinawa”. When the programme ended, I read back over the words and suddenly had an image of a Japanese lady murmuring them to her lover with the hand movements and gestures of a Japanese tea ceremony. I tried to create a tone of subservience for her in the opening line of the poem: “I kiss your face with cherry/ blossoms as you sleep”, she says, sprinkling cherry blossom petals over the face of her lover…
“In fourteen days I open,/ a carpet at your feet.”
This line has an intimate meaning: she will open herself up to him as a virgin would, laying herself in front of him, waiting, so he may take her with him into the world of passionate intimacy and also out into the world as his wife.
“Let us hold hands/ and go, Hanami”
Hanami refers to enjoying the transient beauty of flowers. The beauty of these lovers is also transient; it changes, fades and dies, but like the petals of the cherry blossom, is reborn again.
The last verse is the most intimate:
“Two flowers opening/ a pink river, blooming.”
They are opening themselves up to each other as lovers. The most intimate parts of their bodies flow with sexual excitement, pink being the colour of the female and male genitalia at their most aroused.
Joyce Butler lives and works in her hometown of Waterford, Ireland. She is married with two children. She has been shortlisted twice by the Atlantic Short Story Contest: The Lone Wolf (2015) and Spring Rain is a Different Entity (2017). She writes poetry that is inspired by nature and her previous experiences of severe depression from which she is now fully recovered. Her poems have been published in Deise Voices and Inside The Bell Jar online magazine. She has also completed the third draft of a historical fiction novel, receiving mentorship from novelist Carolyn Jess Cooke through the Mslexia website.