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Mike Birbiglia (he/him/his) reads "Earth (in reverse)" by J. Hope Stein.

Mike Birbiglia:

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It's Mike Birbiglia. The poem I'm reading today  is called "Earth (in reverse)." It was written by my wife, J.

Hope Stein, for a book that we collaborated on called, The New

One: Painfully True Stories from a Reluctant Dad, with poems by J. Hope Stein. And we actually both write quite a bit, uh, in the book uh, about Earth and the environment and the world that we're living in. And the poem I'm going to read today is one of hers that I really love.

And it's called, "Earth (in reverse)." One morning, I decide to spin backwards around the sun, says Earth. One step behind another behind another, I watch the chipper dance of human beings in reverse. Fork-by-fork, I watch these graceful creatures pull meat from their mouths & plate them & knife them whole.

Bucket-loads of tuna moving backwards in the fisherman's boat remember how to breathe - & the gasping fish spool in to swim on & live their lives. & human beings, one step behind another behind another are the heroes of Earth. Axes like tree-erecting wands, harpoons like Band-Aids. Bombs & guns like surgeons extracting shrapnel & mushroom fire.

Such superior intellect, one step behind  another behind another, walking my soil? It always comes back to the soil, says Earth. Flybys unpoison the crops which unkill the animals & untumor the children & hospitals release them all - into parking lots.

Moving backwards in their vehicles they remember how to breathe. Swim on & live their lives - Inside the mouth-cheeks of human beings I see tongues word-by-word in reverse: EARTH as HTRAE and TREE as EERT when you say it backwards Soldiers escorting citizens to their rightful homes. But human beings, barefoot one step behind another behind another, across the bedroom carpet have their pleasures to pursue - The unrumpling of underwear leg-by-leg, the fingers help it, thigh-high over the smooth or hairy face of the ass.

This is the only animal that does this, says Earth. First with the mouth, then the hands - The cupping, strapping, click of fastenings. The garment-by-garment dressing of the waist & torso.

The slipping on of fabrics - the shirting, zippering, the loop-by-loop buttoning, belting, skirting. The (more mouth) smothering of the lips until both parties are fully clothed & embrace for the first time. Of perspiration & recollection they neaten each other's hair.

Of fingers-tips. Separate - EARTH as HTRAE, TREE as EERT.