Volume 33, Number 2

1.5 Degrees Celsius

A million suns blaze with light,
a burning blue sea spreads across the sky …

“The Lord is in Me,” trans. Andrew Harvey

1.5 degrees Celsius—so small an escalation
of disaster burning through our atmosphere.

And yet, in India last summer, roads became
mouths, swallowed shoes and feet, bit

small dogs and cats into the lost frenzy
of mammoths and pterodactyls. The foreign

minister of Tuvalu prays hip-deep in the sea
slurping the edges of his country’s island. Meanwhile

a day trip in the Sierras begun at 74 degrees
Fahrenheit smoldered into worry then fear then

panic then silence for a couple and their carrier-
coddled baby as their full skin of water, sated

in gulps, then sips, then drops of salvation
vanished onto swollen tongues.

Found curled and shrunken, death
shining his million suns, blazing

his promise of destruction, for don’t all
things die or die away? Doesn’t everything

end? And aren’t we all complicit? We want
to blame that great asteroid for wiping out

the dinosaurs, just as so many insist
that vaccines cause autism or Pfizer

and Moderna are agents of Bill Gates. But
isn’t death most powerful in silence,

in the stealth of one lump of coal burned
then another, not in the massive islands

of plastic choking our seas, but in each
disposable fork and knife bedded in a bleached

napkin in our takeaway, in each sky blue
mask piling up against the curb, each mylar

balloon screaming Happy Birthday as it washes
up on shore?

—Elya Braden