“It is not the strongest of the species that survives…. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
– Charles Darwin
Here in my backyard
it’s survival of the fittest.
Even the aloes seem to collapse
into themselves. Azalea leaves darken
and drop. Camellias fail to flower.
Peach trees yield impotent fruit.
Leaves rustle like demand letters.
Branches rattle like percussive bones.
We count water drops like coins,
filling basins, buckets, barrels—
collecting shower water before it heats.
We sprinkle planted pots
with half-drunk glasses,
pitiless pools of tablecloth-dew,
thimblefuls of leaf-damp.
Just 150 years ago,
prospectors sluiced snowmelt-streams
that rushed from high-Sierra vaults,
weighed the dust and nuggets,
then banked their wealth in cities
spreading roots like weeds.
Those salad days of gold and growth
now seem like green mirages in this thirsty state,
whose promise wilts fast in waterless waves of heat.
By Ellen Girardeau Kempler
Ellen Girardeau Kempler is an award-winning nonfiction writer and poet. After a 25-year career in nonprofit communications, a layoff inspired her to enroll in a poetry workshop in Ireland and launch her website, Gold Boat Journeys (Creative Cultural Travel). She believes in poetry’s power to reach hearts, change minds and move people to action.