Here’s a poem I wrote based on watching tourists
walk around on top of a huge flat map of the world
installed the summer of 2000 in the Luxembourg Gardens
by Yann-Arthus Bertrand, who’s taken 100,000 aerial
photos of the world over the last 10 years to show the
mess we’ve made of it as well as to illustrate patterns of
surpassing beauty, made by, for example, uranium mines
and radioactive pollution spilling sulfurically into distant
deltas from dams. He’s enlarged them and hung several
hundred waterproof C-prints, the size of Toyotas, in the
Luxembourg this summer. He has as well an astonishing
giant book out in French, La Terre Vue du Ciel (Earth Seen
from the Sky: Portrait of the Planet in the Year 2000), with
hundreds of fold-out photos. Rarely have so many photos
been so painterly, or elucidated by so many thousands of
chilling facts.
He built a giant walk-on flat world map in the park
and pasted tiny versions of his photos on the map to show
where the photos were taken.
The poem says that we reduce the world to our own
proportions to make it bearable or comprehensible, and
to make our own future grow from its more manageable


Something falling down to tangle summer
Flashes, resting on a sorrel tip: a piece
Of cotton come to bear the whirl and blur,
The burden of the dying trees,

When limbs are shorn of skin like lambs,
When little bits of fleece like this
Hold the future of the barren land,
The history of the fold, in chrysalis:

Deceptive root that looks like bloom,
Embryo that looks like snow,
Milkweed tassel washing slowly down
The lip of night to fold,

To blanket soil in seed like rice,
Foam that wraps the ground in mold,
Coat our summertime in ice
And keep it from the cold.