“There is no light at the end of this tunnel/ so it’s a good thing we brought matches”

New over on Button Poetry’s channel: an a capella rendition of my two verses from the song “Matches.”

You may know it from the Sifu Hotman album, or from it being featured as the weather on an episode of Welcome to Night Vale. It’s kind of a personal “mission statement,” something that drives a lot of what I try to do.

The song wasn’t written about the climate crisis, but let’s talk about it.
I’m thinking about this song in the context of today’s Global Climate Strike. Part of the song is about rejecting the narrative of the individual hero or revolutionary, and instead attempting to tap into something larger, something more communal, something more connected. Because when it comes to this work, individual action will not be enough. We need large-scale, sustainable policy change, the the mass movements that can drive that policy change. So that means joining organizations, donating to organizations, voting for candidates with bold plans to tackle the problem, pressuring the politicians who don’t, and dreaming bigger.

And yeah, if I recycle, use less plastic, and pick up litter at the park on the way there, that’s fine. But those actions are not a substitute for organizing. There’s a reason the song ends with “it’s a good thing we brought matches” and not “it’s a good thing I brought matches.”

Here in MN, today’s climate strike is sponsored by a bunch of organizations that are worth a follow, from MN350, to TakeAction MN, to MN Youth Climate Strike and beyond. Check out the “hosted by” list at the event page.

I’d also recommend checking out poet Bernard Ferguson’s fantastic “Hurricane Dorian Was a Climate Injustice” in the New Yorker, on the difference between unavoidable tragedy and avoidable injustice. Also, this profile of MN’s own Isra Hirsi, who makes vital connections between environmental justice and racial justice.

“Who do you want to be at the end of the world?”
When it comes to the climate crisis, there’s one essay I recommend everyone read: Kelly Hayes“Saturday Afternoon Thoughts on the Apocalypse.” THIS QUOTE:

“And there is nothing revolutionary about fatalism. I suppose the question is, are you antifascist? Are you a revolutionary? Are you a defender of decency and life on Earth? Because no one who is any of those things has ever had the odds on their side. But you know what we do have? A meaningful existence on the edge of oblivion. And if the end really is only a few decades away, and no human intervention can stop it, then who do you want to be at the end of the world?”

Art by Peregrine

Here’s the full text:

MATCHES

the reason that I’m not a nihilist
is someday I wanna live like in star trek
and I know that we’ll never build starships
until we tackle poverty, war and hardship, so we fight
overnight or over lifetimes, organize for that warp drive
and of course I realize
that we’re a long way from it
but what better reason to start runnin’?
said if you’re gonna do the work then it’s gotta be honest
because the best of us have all already been forgotten
and if you’re in it for the recognition
I hate to disappoint, but if you do it right you’ll never get it
we don’t remember the farmer, we remember the fruit
we don’t remember the inventor, we remember the boom
the impact through the eons
so I know what side of history I wanna be on
I got a lotta ancestors on my side
I got a ancestor took a arrow to the chest and survived
I got an ancestor who cheated and lied
I got an ancestor who taught her children how to fight
so much spirit in my corner
can’t help but color outside every border
to every ancestor who kept my song alive
i swear on your unmarked graves, I will sing it ‘til I die

There are no stories told in a vacuum
There is no prophecy lighting our way
there is just a lotta darkness to be afraid of
so it’s a good thing we are not afraid
There is no superman in that phone booth
there is no rewarding our faith
there is no one who can save us
so it’s a good thing we don’t need to be saved
There are no starships in low earth orbit
No aliens to save us from ourselves
There is no voice willing to speak for us
So it’s a good thing we know how to yell
There is no chosen one, no destiny, no fate
There’s no such thing as magic
There is no light at the end of this tunnel
So it’s a good thing we brought matches