The Give & Take by Molly Fisk

The Give & Take

Sitting with my friend, each deep in our thoughts,
the timer set, pens in hand, the cacophony ebbing
& rising around us. Rumble of baritone & soprano

descant not in time but still their own music, the way
an ocean will greet its shore, off-rhythm, impossible
to replicate. Beyond the plate glass, a blue California

November sky. I think I’ll try to stay alive a little longer,
despite cars, Covid, wildfire, the black widow spider
laying her eggs under the lid of my turkey pan again.

Ill-designed kitchen cabinetry probably kills more people
than is reported. And the tripping over cats suddenly
stopped cold in a hallway. Private, quiet dangers

of a country pretending it’s not at war, pretending to address
looming disaster & the accumulated damage of unkindness
without admitting greed. I wince even at the 12-Step motto

Take what you like and leave the rest. However
well-meaning, it’s colonial thinking, and me a daughter
of colonizers from way back. Take care, instead.

Take it easy. Takes one to know one. Even Take a hike!
but other than that, stop taking, give generously, give it
everything you’ve got, your best shot, give it up,

give it your all, go on: give it away with both hands,
God give us strength to break trail as we head into a new
world of chaos, more equality, uncertainty.


Molly Fisk edited California Fire & Water, A Climate Crisis Anthology, with a Poets Laureate Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets. She’s won grants from the NEA, the California Arts Council, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Her most recent poetry collection is The More Difficult Beauty; her latest book of radio commentary is Everything But the Kitchen Skunk. Fisk lives in the Sierra foothills.