The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Facing Aridity by Diana Woodcock

This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Alaina Hanchey, is from Facing Aridity by Diana Woodcock, released by Wayfarer Books in 2021.

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Outside Longyearbyen, eight hundred
miles from the North Pole, scientists,
counting and envisioning the cost
of past and future disasters—even
Syria’s civil war—Aleppo’s seed bank
destroyed by bombing 2015—

have tucked into a mountainside,
ensured in permafrost, ample space
for four and a half billion critical
crop seeds worldwide. If the worst
should happen, this backup collection
will safeguard vegetation.

Or is it all mere speculation—
no place feasible but the hereafter.
But how to disentangle ourselves
from earthly (Arctic) time and space?
Standing in front of the entrance
to the doomsday seed vault—

something about it putting a halt
to doubt—I began envisioning
what the seeds are all about.
Was it too late to practice faith?
Dalal from Kuwait had brought
seeds from her desert home,

assuming she could contribute
them right there and then.
Tottering on the threshold
of before and after, I prayed
for faith as small as that biblical
mustard seed. Immerse myself,

I coaxed, in the hope of seeds,
that someday planted,
they can reverse the damage.
Feeling a thirst for roots,
recalling the burning bush—
how thorns and thistles are not

the earth’s original natural fruit—
I wished upon a seed deposited
just then in the scat of that snow
bunting warbling and hunting
insects beside the mountain stream
flowing past the global seed vault,

toward the sea, under the midnight sun.

Diana Woodcock’s fourth poetry collection, Facing Aridity, was published in 2021 as the 2020 Prism Prize for Climate Literature finalist. Forthcoming in 2023 is Holy Sparks (2020 Paraclete Press Poetry Award finalist). Recipient of the 2011 Vernice Quebodeaux Pathways Poetry Prize for Women for Swaying on the Elephant’s Shoulders, her work appears in Best New Poets 2008 and has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Currently teaching at VCUarts Qatar, she holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, where her research was an inquiry into poetry’s role in the search for an environmental ethic.

Alaina Hanchey, known as Harley to both friends and foes, believes rhetoric is intensely important and the way we speak can change the world. That belief was shared by her best friend, Quinn Arielle Kerlin, who inspired her to volunteer and immerse herself in those words that matter, and the connections that matter.


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