At-risk youth and the rape of Mother Earth

Continued from here…

I’m gazing out a window 35,000 feet above ground
Looking down on barren earth, parceled squares of land
I’m gettin’ high from inside a 737 jet plane
I’m Lady Jonah in the hollow belly of man

I’m looking down on the body of the only mother I have left
At flesh that’s been carved out by miserly machines
Her scars tell the story of the real tragedies of youth
This mama is the molested child unseen

There are roads where there were once rivers
Factory farms where forests used to lie
Concrete parking lots on land my ancestors once called holy ground
How are the children, one leader asked. I began to cry.

From up here, the crimes appear so obvious
The throbbing wounds stand out like bright red streaks of blood
Mother Earth screams the answer in a voice heartwrenching and shrill
Her children, it appears, are not doing so good

We privileged seem to have grown accustomed to the warnings and alarms
We drown them out with ipods and numbing machines
Yet the children scream louder, use the only tools they know how
Beg us to listen, to bare witness, to feel

Perhaps what stands out for me most looking back and below
Is that we don’t see those who reflect the dark parts of our selves
We don’t want to acknowledge the little ones who mirror our own shame
We hide them away in group homes, rec centers, and jail cells

We say this is us, and that there is them
Those kids aren’t like me– they’re not of my kind
Without awareness of source, we forget that every one of us belongs
To a family that trumps class, race, even species lines

Our collective mother’s tears fall from puffy cumulous clouds,
Toxic rain streaming down from high above
Look hard enough you’ll see where (hu)man’s semen singed her tender flesh
Raped her soil, told her it was love

The children see it, don’t you think they’re too young
They watch the violence through a cracked bedroom door
Not yet numbed by their traumas, or armored in defense
They absorb the pain, feel it through the floor

So as I gaze down from above, the bitter irony hits me hard
I write from inside a jet blowing whiffs of black smog out its rear end
I, the child who was once violated herself
Now I’m the abuser perpetuating our collective sin

That’s the paradox I’ve been grappling with on my journey this week
I realized I too have been inept in ways I don’t want to see
I chatted with homeless men on the boardwalk during the day
Then I crawled under a feather blanket in our hotel to sleep

I leave LA with more questions than I came
Many of which might just guide the rest of my life
How do children heal when their only tools are guns, drugs, and eating disorders?
How do we advocate for others when we’re still engulfed in personal strife?

How do I nourish my own personal body
When I’ve starved the planet to put food on my plate
How do I deal with the guilt of rising even when my own family fell?
How do I eat when my food left pesticides, a child’s blood in its wake?

I don’t know the answers to these all too raw and personal questions
I am still trying hold the paradox within and for myself
Maybe though, just maybe, the path is paved with the questions themselves
For the road we’ve been treading, it seems, is digging us deeper into hell

For it was the quest for solid ground that laid these cement parking lots in the first place
I wonder if it’s in the not knowing that something different has space to arise
I don’t know. I’m still just gazing out my window—smiling at the hope in despair
Things look very different when you’re flyin’ 35,000 feet high

This poem was inspired by Off the Mat Into The World’s Empowered Youth Initiative. To read more about the immersion, click here.

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- who has written 43 posts on Yoga Modern.

Chelsea Roff is a writer by day and yoga teacher by night, a weaver of words as well as of asanas. She is Managing Editor at, and her writing has been featured by Yoga Journal, Elephant Journal, Wanderlust Festival and the Hanuman Festival. Chelsea is passionate about using online media to inspire action that serves a greater cause -- whether it be the expansion of knowledge, support of our global community, or improvement of planetary and personal health. She travels the country teaching yoga in the most non-traditional of spaces, from cocktail parties to public protests to centers for at-risk youth. In Dallas, Chelsea helped start a yoga service organization that brings yoga classes to people in homeless shelters, juvenile detention centers, and prisons. Chelsea currently lives in Santa Monica, CA, where she can be found cartwheeling across the beach, hiking in the mountains, and practicing yoga poses on her little pink scooter.

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