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From: Vol.09 N.01 – A Poetics of Rights

Rights which settle accounts on corporate balance sheets but can never make us whole

by J. Maak

you drive—invincible inside your two tons of metal—down the
     boulevard, you take two rights, then a left into a driveway.
a preacher-man reads to you from a thick book stories of angels
     with flaming swords so you should learn someone’s idea of       
right versus wrong.
     you prepare for the protest march downtown, empty your
     wallet of all but i.d., write your one phone number in
     sharpie down the inside of your forearm, and memorize     
     your rights.
in a courthouse you stand in front of a judge dressed in black
     wielding her gavel, in stylized battle with attorneys as your
     proxy, to fight for your rights under the law, fight for the
     cold hard cash of a settlement—sixty guilders for
     Manhattan island entire, or fifteen thousand dollars for a
     lifetime of earnings wiped out by the Exxon Valdez—these
     settle accounts on the corporate balance sheets but will
     never make you whole. no,

it’s more like wisps of chimney smoke drifting through woods
on a crisp spring morning, wisps you could never gather
completely, let alone assemble for a law book: you hold your
scrunch-faced newborn daughter in your arms, you cradle her
with love, tenderness, joy, protectiveness, responsibility. you
greet your best friend—perhaps with hugs and back-slaps,
perhaps with fist-bumps—you pledge loyalty, brotherhood, I-
got-your-back. your sister is unwell, you find out what she
needs, you bring groceries, flowers, do what you can to help
her heal. you stand on the edge of a cliff, blue sky and puffy
clouds overhead, trees of a forest unfolding before your feet,
with a deep breath you feel your connection to the hawk that
circles, the grasses on the cliff, you’re all crafted from the same
atoms recycled since the beginning of time. a crumpled snack-
bar wrapper flutters across your boot—doesn’t matter that it’s
not yours, you pick it up, stash it in your bag to pack it out.

Published: August 2022
J. Maak

is a writer and change-maker in urban Los Angeles. Her poetry has appeared in Wild Roof Journal, Plants and Poetry Journal, Tiny Seed Literary Journal and Pomona Valley Review. She teaches environmental sustainability at a private college as well as to the general public. When not writing, she can typically be found in a garden: helping others with their vegetable plots, maintaining her own fruit trees and veggies, or watching birds and butterflies in the backyard wildlife habitat she stewards.

An Australian and international
journal of ecopoetry and ecopoetics.

Plumwood Mountain Journal is created on the unceded lands of the Gadigal and Wangal people of the Eora Nation. We pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to elders past, present and future. We also acknowledge all traditional custodians of the lands this journal reaches.