Voices from the American Land




Charles E. Little

Charles E. LittleClick here to purchase the chapbook, “Remembering Charles.”

Voices from the American Land enters its fourth volume with Remembering Charles, our ninth chapbook. In it you’ll find not just Charles’s essay but an original poem by Renny Golden, a suite of remembrances from Charles’s colleagues, and a series of photographs from Charles’s youth in the San Gabriel Mountains of California.

“The land ethic of the future—if there is a future, and there will be none without the land—will have to be an ethic not to serve the political economy, but to serve the land whether it is economic or not: an ethic that advances that land’s reasons for being. This is what Aldo Leopold has taught us, and I believe it. But it’s hardly the case at present. In fact, as far as land is concerned, the present is a flop. If you do not believe this, go home again,” writes Charles E. Little in his masterly essay “In a Landscape of Hope,” reprinted here for the first time since its appearance nearly twenty years ago in The World of Wilderness: Essays on the Power and Purpose of Wilderness, a publication of The Wilderness Society.

In memory of Charles E. Little, by Renny Golden, editor, Remembering Charles

What Does Not Wither

They are like trees planted by streams of water, bearing fruit in due season,
with leaves that do not wither: everything they do shall prosper. Psalm 1

He watched the seasons of trees
weigh into him, a boy ringing
the glory bells of his San Gabriel valley.

How does geography hold a man?
That glimpse of orange groves, truck farms
below timberlines of white fir, sugar pine,

where he walked amidst sweeps of blue-eyed
grass, monkey-flowers, poppies.

What he left, never left him.
When he read Aldo Leopold
he cried. Not just for the land

but the wounded seasons
like abused dogs that return
to a cruel master year after year.

So he traveled Wisconsin back roads,
Illinois prairies, sandstone canyons,
Georgia chicken farms, looking

with Whitman and Guthrie,
for America’s land as if it belonged
to no one but itself.

For all his seasons, the man raged
for skunk cabbage, apple orchards,
the Ogallala aquifer, for Pine Barrens
and prairie dogs, lagoons and rookeries.

Before his last winter he watched
wild horses cross the slant of light
falling over Chamisa, Scrub oak, Indian
Paintbrush below the Sandia’s
blazoned trees.

So we keep our place in a landscape
of wild things, belong to it, whisper
to Leopold and Charles Little,
hope is slow, pathetic as the betrayed dog
who offers its paw one more time.

Renny Golden’s book of poetry, The Hour of the Furnaces, was nominated for a National Book Award; her new book of poetry, Blood Desert: Witnesses 1820–1880 (Nuevo Mexico in the 1800s), was published in 2011 by the University of New Mexico Press.

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