Red Lung

Lyrics adapted from Hazel Dickens’ song “Black Lung” by “Irene,” believed to be among the first terraform workers sent to Mars during its initial colonization in the late 21st century. 

He’s had more bad breaks than most settlers could stand 
This planet’s his first love but never his friend 
He’s worked a hard life and hard he’ll expire 
Red lung’s got him, set his breathing on fire 
 
Red lung, red lung, you’ve stolen my time 
Soon all of this suffering I’ll leave behind 
I can’t help but ask what the Angel had in mind 
To let the dust devils claim this breath of mine 
 
HMO TerraCare won’t return his calls 
Your medicine’s radiation or it’s nothing at all 
Your dignity is nothing when it’s air that you lack 
The silence of deep space is calling you back 
 
Down here in Cowtown, on Elysium’s rim 
The broken are accepted, but futures are dim 
His veins and his bronchioles both stopped up with iron 
All that awaits him is the industrial pyre 
 
Red lung, Red lung, your hand’s like a flame 
You fill me with fever and boil my brain 
Red hot like the scorched sky while the atmosphere grew 
Where I sweat my blood out, made this planet new 

The CEO’s letter is hollow and staunch 
Tells us he died nobly, as his ashes are launched 
Take back your bluster, take back your false hope  
He’s no more than dust now, like what choked his throat 

(The verse below was added by an unknown author during the rebellion that is now referred to as the “Martian Commune.”) 

Within the Commune, no bosses endure 
Their winter’s the sickness, our Spring is the cure 
No more will our lungs burn, no more will our veins 
Only our hearts now; a new future’s made  

Painting by Adam Turl

Ode to an Ancient Shark

The world’s longest-living vertebrate. Older than Shakespeare they said. (Initially…)

Can we say she has a memory? What lives inside her instincts? What imprints and echoes?

“The Arctic as we know it” is over. Soon it will be ice free. The permafrost becomes impermanent. Waters warm. Gasses trapped inside glaciers escape into the atmosphere and the process accelerates.

Humans know how to accelerate. We do it without trying. History now exists at an inexorable speed. Beyond the brakes.

The world’s longest-living vertebrate does not know how things accelerate. She feels it. Oblivious to Shakespeare. Oblivious to the achievements and fears of a history’s weight, she is present as that history turns inward.

But she must feel as the water warms. Even if only by a few degrees. She notices there are fewer glaciers blocking the sunlight from peering through the waters. She goes hungrier with fewer seals, walrus and polar bears.

For life so long it cannot posit change to experience the one thing it never knew to anticipate.

For such deep time to rupture.

This post originally appeared at an earlier blog that I used to run. I have migrated it with its original post date.