Encounter

Standing next to me
And my large sign
Extinction Rebellion!
A man with a bicycle asks
What we are doing.
“A die-in,” I explain,
“To dramatize how
Carbon emissions
Are killing us,
Killing our chances
To continue
As a species.
Other species too,
Maybe all of life.”
He responds somberly
“I know what you mean.
I gave up my car six years ago,
Right after I had
A brain tumor removed.
I looked at my life
And I looked around and saw
What was happening
To the world
And wanted to do
What I could
To be part of a solution.”
His speech is slightly slurred,
The left side of his face
Is somewhat askew,
The corner of his lip
Is sagging
As if a toddler
Had stuck a finger in his mouth
And was tugging it downwards.
“This is really important,”
He declares gravely,
“Do you think it would be all right
If I lay down too?”
“Everyone’s welcome,” I say.
He leans his two-wheeler
Against a fire hydrant
Near the large group
Of climate activists
Lying in the street
And finds an open area
To settle down among them,
This man
Who has survived
An encounter with mortality
And knows
More than a little
About living and dying
Honoring us with his presence
As we demand an end
To the climate criminality
Threatening to turn the whole biome
To ashes and dust.

Buff Whitman-Bradley’s new book is At the Driveway Guitar Sale, from Main Street Rag Publishing. He podcasts poems on aging, memory, and mortality at thirdactpoems.podbean.com and lives in northern California with his wife, Cynthia. Read other articles by Buff.