Western Washington University’s Children’s Literature Conference | Bellingham, WA


As once again
a plague descends—
our punishment,
our reprieve—
we bang our kettles
in the evening breeze,
busy with fear,
deafened by loss.
Six feet apart.
Six feet under.
This is not a time for

Sly earth, meanwhile,
has other plans.

stroll the freeway.
Geese cruise
the Strip,
confident goslings

Fish stripe
Venice canals
while jellyfish,

The sky unmasks,
fresh slate
chalked with clouds,
proud with hawks and

We are lost,
say the pundits.
We are dying,
say the papers.
But if every story has been told
then each can be retold,
tweaked, erased,
savaged or

It’s only a draft,
rough and wrong,
I tell our children.
Tell it again,
this time truly.
This time let it
weep and breathe
and sing.
This time
be gracious.

Here is the only thing to know:
writing is rewriting,
humbling, solitary.
Stories are sighs
and pencil dust,
but they are supple, too,
and sometimes even

Take the gift of these hard days,
seek our redemption,
retell the tale
like the bold coyotes,
the righteous geese,
the unruly sky,
staking claim to what was theirs
and what could be theirs


Poem to be published in:

Fantasy and Myth in the Anthropocene: Imagining Futures and Dreaming Hope in Literature and Media,
edited by Marek Oziewicz, Brian Attebery and Tereza Dedinová
New York and London, Bloomsbury Academic
Projected pub date: March 2022

Blending chapters by leading scholars of speculative fiction and creative reflections by award-winning authors and illustrators of children’s literature, this collection addresses the fundamental challenge of reimagining ourselves as different kinds of beings than those who brought the biosphere to the edge of collapse. Imagination is a form of resistance and this volume considers fantasy and myth as spaces where visions of sustainable futures can be designed with most detail and nuance. Rather than merely criticizing the ecocidal status quo, the book asks how fantasy and myth can mobilize resistance around ideas necessary for the emergence of an ecological civilization.

“rewrite” was inspired by stories like this: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-the-coronavirus-has-changed-animals-landscape-of-fear/ and https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/10/coronavirus-empty-streets-around-the-world-are-attracting-wildlife.html

© Katherine Applegate
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