Deepwater Horizon Poems

Something struck and it sprang. It was
insoluble. Like
all depth
in a spool—a kind
of wellhead
was tapped that the Lord Jesus
flang until pooled.
And ANDERSON, Jason—you’re dead.
And REVETTE, Dewey, too. O pneumatic
ocean. We’re endeared to the
tarballs. Because in casings, various
kernals. Remember, 100 years ago. The flensers
of blubber, and all the held
nostrils. The stents and stanchions after—
the inventions and blowout
preventers. All because your
heart is an oily

Improbables, hmmm—how to get. Jury-rig,
or Jerry-build, best follow
the witchy around
while they
stand on the ground hunting water
with sticks.
The problem too,
of finding
the right stick. Some engineering—this
avoiding of tripping
the wrong
switch. This leads to
belongings. Whose baubles.
Over oysters, juggernauts
and feud. The
bracky meringue was unavoidable—we
have been
bawling too. Whose
memory is this of—whose bit
of historical carcass
is this from? Over oysters, the held
nostrils. We are so sorry ROSHTO,
and CLARK,
Donald. We are in the midst
of improving the witches, and
R&Ding a better



Almost two months after the spill, and the oil is still spewing. I don’t understand how, exactly, this all happened, other than it has to do with greed and consumption, that we are, finally, incurable oil-gluttons who have invented all sorts of clever devices for consuming without creating for ourselves a  need-for-oil kill-switch, or satiate button. We’ve been drilling for oil, from one source or another, for centuries; now it’s petrol, but way back when it was whale blubber. As I wrote these poems I naturally began thinking about engineering–about the machines we manufacture to drill, and the many switches and hatches designed as a part of in order to increase productivity and ensure safety. Thing is, there’s no way to safely drill or mine for anything without risk of loss–of the very thing we’re trying to acquire, of the source itself, of the actual humans involved in acquiring it, many of whom reap no economic benefit for risking their lives to obtain it (in the past for dynasties, and empires, and, now, for ambiguously-named corporations.) When I wrote these two poems, I thought of the men on the rig called Deepwater Horizon, not of the muddy, strangled duck, or the ocean itself. On TV I have seen fume after bloody fume of oil, beached tarball after beached tarball, and these effects, awful and exemplary of the problem as they are, deserve our poetic attention, no doubt. But there were men. 11 of them. And not all of them have been found. Petrol and blubber are (and were)–I do not mean to diminish–important resources, but so, too, are the humans who seek them, find them, and have lost (and we have still not found them all) their lives to acquire them. That’s why I wrote these poems.


Nicole Mauro has published poems and criticism in numerous print and online journals, including Jacket, How2, absent, and Western Humanities Review. She is the author of six chapbooks, one full-length poetry collection, The Contortions (Dusie Books, 2009), and her second book, Tax-Dollar Super-Sonnet Featuring Sarah Palin as Poet is forthcoming from Black Radish Books in 2011. She is the co-editor of an interdisciplinary book about sidewalks titled Intersection: Sidewalks and Public Space (with Marci Nelligan, ChainArts, 2008). She lives in the San Francisco bay area with her husband Patrick, and daughters Nina and Faye, where she teaches rhetoric and language at the University of San Francisco.

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