My Alarm by Eric Nelson

My Alarm

Isn’t my neighbor’s boots, though he stands on his porch
every dawn and slams them together repeatedly, dry muck
flying like dark sparks. Sometimes it sounds like the woodpecker
that beats its head against my house. Sometimes a drumstick
rapping a snare’s rim, sometimes a gavel demanding order.

He pulls on the boots, double knots the laces, and drives off
to his landscaping job. Sure, there’s days I pillow my ears.
But the sound of his two boots clapping is reassuring—
a sturdy, reliable answer to the news raging from the radio,
relentless as gunfire and wildfire. No, my alarm began long before

my neighbor. Today, it’s twenty-three species declared extinct.
Yesterday, record overdoses and evidence that summers burn
hotter and longer than ever, spring and fall collapsing into one
long winter. Every day, I walk past a fake gravestone some
guerilla installed on the greenway, R.I.P. hand-lettered across

the top, and underneath: We don’t deserve paradise anymore.
I think of my neighbor at his work planting trees, making paths.
Amending and mulching. At the end of the day, the last bed made,
he’s back on his porch, sweat-stained and beat, pushing the muddy
boots off, leaving them at the door, heels up, to harden by morning.

by Eric Nelson

Instagram: @ericnelson2022

Editor’s Note: This philosophical poem is deeply grounded in practical imagery, providing the reader with an easy doorway into ecological contemplation.

The Runners by Eric Nelson

The Runners

I’m not a runner but I love to watch them—
their mute glide, raindrop-soft footfalls, arms
rhythmic as wings. And how they bring
the city to a stop with their K’s—the 3’s, 5’s, and 10’s,
the Fun Run, the Jingle Bell, the Firecracker—
everybody wearing red white and blue—
streets blocked, blue police lights for once
not sparking fear, volunteers at tables checking names,
handing out numbers, synchronizing watches.

Young moms in full stride push strollers cargoed
with wide-eyed babies. Dads run beside kids
giving advice, watching for fatigue, ready to swoop
them up and keep running. The old, papery but fit,
move wisely, unperturbed as turtles. The serious
athletes, straight-faced, burst quickly to the front,
their gaze more inward than out, personal best
on their minds. Behind them, the big bunch paces itself,
amorphous as a bulge squeezing through a snake’s length.

Then, for a while, it seems over, the end
come and gone before you know it. Finally, the stragglers
appear, some talking, some alone, limping, likely
to be picked off by cheetahs—those beautiful runners—
if this were the Serengeti. But this is America, so we cheer
for their never-say-die gumption, knowing that some day
the last shall be first. But not today….

The crowd drifts away. Tables get folded and loaded
onto trucks. The police cut their blue lights, give
their sirens a half-whoop, and return to circling the city
returning to itself—loud, clumsy, in a hurry.

by Eric Nelson

Editor’s Note: This poem writes of optimism and community, while also being fully aware that reality often is anything but.