A categorical exclusion, birdfoot deltaic lobe sprawling eastward. “No significant adverse impacts are expected”, planned for. A lapse, this: piping plover habitat, brown pelican nursery. Caspian and Sandwich terns diving against sludge. Catastrophe too “unlikely” no (additional) mitigation measures necessary. Though urgency obligatory (revenue management), abrogating safety and environmental— Oil “plume” blanket, mantle smothering spongefields, corals, remnant cordgrass meadows. A lapse and a rush, field of rushes fouled.
Pelicans, given to loafing on sand shoals, glide above (oiled) surf. Royal terns, laughing gulls. Barrier islands braceleted in orange. Shelter dolphin, sea turtles: haven, refuge, home. Investment portfolio, what’s really at stake. Residual marsh sequesters toxicity, pompom booms mimicking widgeon-grass. A regulatory regime cut-to-fit Big Oil, profit, thirst of our idealized machines. Fill in the blank. “No clear strategic objectives”—tern estuary, soak, seat—“linked to statutory requirements.” What is required?
Profit, 93 million dollars a day. “No adverse”, not. Part of the scheme. Copepods grazing on corexit, this ( ) web feeding squid, sperm whales, dolphin. MMS, like BP, leashing science to production, acquisition. Yield. Meaning to take, to harvest. Accumulate wealth, at the bottom of things. Counting our blessings and breathing in fumes. Larval bluefin, swordfish, this ( ) hydrocarbon nursery. “adverse impacts” cannot be expected. Or imagined. Preparing the bottom line. Thousands of frigatebirds roosting amid black mangroves stabilizing the coast.
No detailed environmental analysis. Necessary, the exigencies of greed. Keeping us grounded. Coral reef, widgeon-grass meadow another. Pipe dream. Illusion. Feeding on (corexit and oil suspension) dreams. Shrimp bed and oyster bed. Better this: cheap petrol, road going everywhere nowhere. Trading covenant, land, law, and our “good intentions” for jobs-in-the-industry. The industry. Selling. Out. Down and— Kissing it good-bye. Chandeleur Sound, a categorical exclusion.
The necessity of placing oneself in the world, fully acknowledging the intricate inter-relations between one-self and all other aspects of one’s place, has been long abandoned by our society. Living in Lafayette, Louisiana, so much signals me that I am anywhere and nowhere—the strip malls, the chain stores, the highways and roads we take for granted as the default means of communication between places—even as southern Louisiana’s remnant self manifests in zydeco music, seafood gumbo and shrimp etouffee, bald cypress swamps struggling for clean, replenishing water. When we imagine ourselves as nowhere in particular, we haplessly abandon the debts of gratitude and obligation that living in place requires of us. Here along the Gulf of Mexico, we sold our souls long ago to Big Oil for the price of jobs in the oilfields. We also sold our coastlines to subsidence, as oil and natural gas are pumped from the ground, and our azure gulf to the constant threat of oil catastrophe which now shuts down the fisheries, tourism, and even the oil jobs so central to this economy. Blindly, like so many others, we have ceded our future on the hollow promises of corporations, forgetting that this intricate land-and-water place owes so much to water, whether it replenishes our swamps and coastlines or nurtures the creatures who share this place with us and which feed us. Place. The living we owe it comes not merely in the form of paychecks and dividends, but in sustainable, harmonious inter-relation. Being in place.
Marthe Reed has published two books of poetry, Gaze and tenderbox, a wunderkammer, as well as two chapbooks zaum alliterations and (em)bodied bliss. Her work appears in New American Writing, Golden Handcuffs Review, HOW2, MiPoesias, Exquisite Corpse, Big Bridge, and is forthcoming from Fairytale Review. An essay on John Kinsella appears in Antipodes. She directs the Creative Writing Program at UL Lafayette.