On the fifth day
the scientists who studied the rivers
were forbidden to speak
or to study the rivers.
The scientists who studied the air
were told not to speak of the air,
and the ones who worked for the farmers
and the ones who worked for the bees.
Someone, from deep in the Badlands,
began posting facts.
The facts were told not to speak
and were taken away.
The facts, surprised to be taken, were silent.
Now it was only the rivers
that spoke of the rivers,
and only the wind that spoke of its bees,
while the unpausing factual buds of the fruit trees
continued to move toward their fruit.
The silence spoke loudly of silence,
and the rivers kept speaking,
of rivers, of boulders and air.
In gravity, earless and tongueless,
the untested rivers kept speaking.
Bus drivers, shelf stockers,
code writers, machinists, accountants,
lab techs, cellists kept speaking.
They spoke, the fifth day,
Jane Hirshfield is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. The Beauty, her eighth book of poems, was long-listed for the National Book Award.
Note: This poem , being read on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. as part of the March for Science taking place on Earth Day, April 22, 2017, was written on January 25th, the fifth day of Donald Trump’s presidency. That day, information on climate change was removed from the White House website and scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency, National Park Service, and other federal agencies were ordered not to release any further research information without permission. Scientists at the Badlands National Park in South Dakota began sending unofficial tweets of factual information. Scientists inside many governmental agencies and universities began copying their research files onto back-up servers for preservation.