Riding it out
Even hearing the roof scream off like a cork or a crow
did not startle me as much, nor did the sight
of my home’s aluminum awning as a wet towel
twined around a lamppost; these things I expected
enough to make my meager arrangements:
Asterisks of duct tape applied to shutterless windows,
potted plants and furniture gathered from the yard,
expressions of anticipation that were powerless
to protect me but allowed an illusion of immunity.
What was beyond my control impressed me less than
what was within it: A realization that I almost felt emboldened
by the belief that I was about to die, for only then did I become
the savior of a world, even as wind bent its windows into bows,
rain pouring in through a rictus that had been my roof.
I did not press my forearms against the door for fear of my life,
but rather for a possibility that if I managed to hold up
just a single side of the house by the time the storm had passed
I would win a kind of victory, an idea that sounds like madness
only to those who never held their homes in their hands, who never
had to keep the afternoon from blowing their lives into the street.
The United States Government is littered with former oil executives who pass through the revolving door between public service and private enterprise solely to combat regulation of the industry in which they made their fortunes.
Every finger that points at BP must also point at the government that enables them, the government that approves proposals for deep-water drilling without even reading them—proposals so carelessly conceived that they promise no harm to the “walruses” in the Gulf of Mexico and fail to acknowledge the slightest need for any disaster response plan whatsoever.
Those government officials—both elected and appointed—will swear to you that there is a distinction between themselves and the oil titans that they excoriate in public while serving in private.
The dirt-brown slurry that cloaks a heron on the Louisiana shore as I write this is the slurry they will gladly drink to retain the power they worship.
It is the slurry for which communities are replaced with the interstates we drive through without the slightest notion of the neighborhoods that preceded them.
It is the slurry in your soap, in the alcohol you wipe over your wounds, in the cartridge that cases the battery in your car.
It is the slurry from which birds “will suffer a painful death regardless of whether the oil is scrubbed from their feathers.”
It is the slurry in your nail polish, in your eye glasses, in the spoon you lift to your mouth.
It is the slurry whose profits are a symptom of cowardice.
It is the slurry in the keys I pound to type this, in the dye that colors my clothes, in the paint on the walls of this room.
It is the slurry a sea turtle swallows in the dark.
Gianmarc Manzione’s first collection of poems, This Brevity, was published by Parsifal Press in 2006. His work has appeared in The Paris Review, The Southern Review, Raritan, Poetry Daily, Inkwell and elsewhere. He currently lives in Arlington, Texas, where he works as the Features Writer for BOWL.COM, the official website of the United States Bowling Congress.