THREE POEMS by Sam Schild

Alligator mississippiensis*

large black head hole for prey passing fourth tooth tucked lower to top of rounded snout. fresh (relative term) water homes, atop biome, apex predating, built up land round digging holes, plant flows through living through swallowing whole broad snout holes. spilt coffee gonna can’t sleep away, species’ll slip, ocean crawls. inflow both sea and fresh water provide highs off water column and sediment nutrients. river dominated estuary has salt wedged and spillage looms below and spillage being loam and spillage in silt and spillaged clay and spill ages days and no one’s pinned blame and pillaged the bread air—burnt the loaf after yeast swallowed oxygen, burnt the river meeting, see? meet sand, and plume, and sparser prey can’t be chewed. hunger lays in waiting freshwater pools grumbling, aggravated, affected landscape by opposing forces. once these hunted for skin and meat reptiles, still face looming threat from these forces, meat, the sea, the river, in between, and those thinking they don’t need aquatics clean, needing homes clean to be.

*There exist two extant alligator species, Alligator mississippiensis, dealt with here, which is native to the wetlands of the Southeastern United States and is sure to be adversely affected as an apex predator by the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and Alligator sinensis, which is currently only found in the Yangtzee River in small numbers, and listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

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Pelecanus occidentalis*

BP leaking unbarreled lies as speaking towards Plaquemines Parish nests. diving while white headed long gray billed and extensible net pouch attaches a brown neck, tucked sliver gray brown wings plunging 30 feet submerging catch, disperse wetness sweeping sea net. disperse witness! you didn’t see that. we follow regulations. we care for krill. April 20th weeps 2010, deep, deepening grays cloud plunging and brown feather bodies becoming vibrant and subdued, metallic gray blues. chicks will bloom, soon, 70 thousand barrels daily will consume.** consume, con, use me to. working to eat to die of corporate negligence cries, con this air, con this gulf, con these people, con fishing, con drivers, sing, con fly off. flying swooping patterned with bills tucked, metallic black coating lapping fingers the gulf and coasting bills safely stored from cleaning duties trying to feed the hatched caught in metallic grasps. we’re and’ll clean up our act. beyond petrol plastic truth will meld into gaps, filling ethical sector niche beyond sucking black gunmetal grays there’s four percent spent. con bureaucracy into opening pockets and turning. while incubating with webbed feet freshlied eggs white when hatched con black eating regurgitated last generation fish from slippery floors of nests, hoping they’ve budgeted for this, ask Prince William Sound friends two decades later on the status of beaches covered in old stuff blood.

*Pelecanus thagus, a Peruvian race in the same family as the Brown Pelican, has recently been elevated to the species level. P. thagus is larger than P. occidentalis, has fine white streaking on its feathers and underparts, and has a blue pouch in the breeding season. P. thagus also nests on the ground, while the Brown Pelican generally nests in trees. The South American Classification Committee lists these species as separate, in fact, most South American ornithologists have always considered the birds in question as separate species. This is likely another case in which scientists hailing from the U.S. and Europe were attempting to maintain intellectual dominance over their southern counterparts. Some sources still list the Peruvian race of Pelican as a subspecies of Pelecanus occidentalis, just as American ornithologist Alexander Wetmore did in A review of the forms of the Brown Pelican (1945).

**”Gulf Spill Could Be Much Worse Than Believed.” NPR. 14 May 2010. Web. 14 May 2010. .

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Sylvilagus aquaticus*

May 20, 2010—near aqua tics till tween light extremes in log caverns or depressed reeds, thatching shelter from prey. was only five days when dad told me I’d dye** when preying close hiding below h not enough oh no this is better cover for brown head and back, white ventral surface, throat, and tail dipping black pelage. and the twitching noses press lightly in the background of the dying. when dad told me I’d dye he didn’t mention safety from prey. like molasses, dark, with a touch of blue, slow moving black lines creep over the whole earth…they are burial lines for the largest of the cottontail genus however with smaller ears still heard month ago explosion while foraging plant matter, practicing coprophagy, soft green eating feces. nearby lapping waves play song silent life sees black lines, slow moving go ceaselessly over the earth, they on the Atlantic side and they on the Pacific, following currents, and they between, and all through the Mississippi country.*** zig zag patterns will not shed new preyer, they will thick black lines, they will draw x’s over eyes until they’re all that can sea, sucking oxygen like burned, but won’t, they are swimming gulf, sucking O2, borrowing systems, displacing, burning, dyeing lives. lines from one thick leaking fossil eyes, they are, and Mississippi Delta lives seize like the gulf.

*This species consists of two recognized subspecies, Sylvilagus aquaticus aquaticus and S. a. littoralis, the latter of the two will be more directly affected by the recent degradation of the Gulf of Mexico, as it occurs in the southern gulf coastal region, while the former subspecies occurs as far north as Southern Illinois.

**An appropriation of a lyric by Edward Sharp and The Magnetic Zeros

***Whitman, Walt, and David S. Reynolds. “To Think of Time.” Leaves of Grass. New York: Oxford UP, 2005. Print.

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STATEMENT
The Deepwater Horizon “oil spill” (for lack of a better term) began over a month ago with an explosion and the death of 11 workers. The oil spewing into the Gulf will not stop anytime soon. This ecological disaster is contaminating billions of gallons of water essential to supporting a countless number of plant and animal species both in the Gulf of Mexico and along its coast.

This disaster is a microcosm of the ongoing ecologic catastrophe that has led to a new scientific term for the current period in the earth’s history: Anthropocene. Homo erectus has had such a large impact on the earth, the only known planet to contain the liquid water necessary to sustain life, that the current period in earth’s history has been named after us. Affecting our ecologic system to this degree is our greatest collective accomplishment, and also our most shameful.

Since the start of the industrial revolution, many diverse ecosystems have been altered severely and irreversibly. The limited amounts of resources available to sustain life on this planet are now rapidly being depleted to sustain a lifestyle of endless consumption, which in turn is causing resource depletion at an even faster rate.

These poems were written in response to the ongoing spill, and are part of a larger series, Animalia, which is a response to the larger ecologic catastrophe characteristic of the Anthropocene epoch. Each piece in this series deals with a different animal species and their environment. What makes each species unique and how they contribute to larger systems of sustainable life are questions I attempt to answer with each poem. I believe we need a radically different approach to solving the ecological problems facing us in the 21st century, and these poems are my literary contribution to forming that approach.

This picture was taken March 2010, just north of Davenport, Iowa, after spending two days bicycling west from Chicago. I am standing next to the Mississippi River, which flows into the Gulf of Mexico.

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 Sam Schild is writer and social activist currently residing near Chicago, Illinois. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in EOAGH, Upstairs At Duroc, Unlikely 2.0, BlazeVOX, Otoliths, Alice Blue, There, Pinstripe Fedora, Anything Anymore Anywhere, and Moria. As of August, he will be a creative writing master’s student and teaching assistant at Temple University.

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