Skip to main content

poetry Undone

South Dakota poet Michelle Morin takes a super-long view of climate change, with or without us.


By Michelle Morin



when we are gone,

they will return:

the endangered, the threatened, the lost.


If you like this article, please sign up for Snapshot, Portside's daily summary.

(One summary e-mail a day, you can change anytime, and Portside is always free.)

in some distant springtime,

their passing flights

will dim the sun with clouds of wings

that rain their calls

onto lush and undeveloped plains,

where the only thunder

that breaks the barrier of quiet

will be sage grouse

drumming out the rhythm

of life remade.


the myriad descendants of the few

will softly tread on shadow-roads buried deep

beneath the duff of vast and ancient forests

as they make their way

to drink from vernal pools,

where blue-spotted salamanders

hide the beginnings of their young,

and leopard frogs

sing vespers in praise

of re-creation.

Just maybe,

in ten-thousand centuries,

when the light we made is all undone

and forever lost,

one of them, aroused from sleep

high among the lavish canopies

of boundless jungle,

will gaze into a midnight

made resplendent by the stars

and ask,

“What am I?”

Michelle Morin lives and writes in the Black Hills of South Dakota, a rapidly disappearing eco-system due to land development and mining interests. She retired from nursing at the end of the pandemic.