“Salons are collecting hair to soak up oil.”
I wish I had hair like Absalom,
weighing two hundred shekels
by the royal standard, cut only
when it got too heavy for him.
I would offer it up, sheared
to the scalp. I wish I had hair
like the Dad from the Play-Doh
Mop Top Shop, crankable.
I would submit to raw materials stuffed
in from below, to a plunger forcing hair
through my follicles, again and again.
I wish I had hair like the bamboo patch
in my front yard, insistent, pliable.
I would send its roots wide for water,
thrust shoots into air, no matter how often
I was cut back. I wish I had hair
sere as sandstone, thirsty for crude,
for sulfur. If hair would work,
would soak up the pluming oil,
I would shave executive heads
with my hands and a straight razor,
would swim down to the riser pipe
and junk shot it closed, tamp dandruff
flakes into the leaks. I would shave
my beard, my legs, my back for this.
When you next come to Florida
take movies of the ocean,
of what passes for breakers
lolling up the sand, of the flat
unbroken horizon dotted with
an occasional cruise ship, freighter,
sailboat. Take photos of the sand,
sparkling ecru, or the broken coral
or seaweed that looks like
overgrown cooked spinach.
Take photos of the sandpipers,
of the seagulls, of the pelicans
as they swoop, dive and bob
their lunches. Take movies
before the oil spills come ashore,
because they will come
as certain as the platforms
will appear one day. We will drill
until there is no more oil
to be found, and damn the costs
or the places unlucky enough
to be near it. Come soon.
I am used up, a waste gas,
am drawn off to completion.
But I can replenish myself–
write a poem or drink a beer,
swing in a hammock, pet a cat,
love, read, listen, walk, plant.
I am sun and wind,
am river rage and tide
and the earth’s molten core.
I’ve lived all but four years of my life in coastal states, and I’ve lived on all three US coasts. My daughter, now almost twenty, fled Waveland MS in the face of Hurricane Katrina. Her mother’s house survived the wind. Now, five years later, she is leaving the Mississippi Gulf Coast she’s called home for much of her life. She’s moving to Montana next week, driven by the headaches and nausea brought on by the smell of oil and chemical dispersants. She’s seen the carcasses of sea turtles and gulls wash up on the beach. She’s led protests at BP gas stations. She can’t take it anymore.
Tonight, I can step outside and smell Atlantic salt on the breeze as it moves westward toward the Everglades and I wonder how long it will be before the oil in the Loop Current sheens and globs Fort Lauderdale beach. And I remember that while my fellow Floridians are now up in arms about the potential for drilling off our shores and the inevitable damage to tourism that will bring, they were heavily in favor of it just 2 years ago, and I believe they will be again when this accident is forgotten and gas prices climb and more politicians and pundits echo “drill, baby, drill” in press conferences and town halls and campaign speeches.
I fear we do not value the future, and that we overvalue the past, and we will pay dearly for that. So will those who follow after us.