To the Mother of Waters, To Whom We May No Longer Pray
Mother of Waters,
grave of slaves
and of those who chose the ocean instead,
long home, resting place
heart’s ease to the troubled mind;
Here comes the Deluge we were warned of,
the blasted Tower, the great Sacrifice.
Mother of Waters, in all tongues:
Creole, French, Spanish, English,
Native languages, some lost
African languages rooted now in New World;
Our Lady of Purification
Mari, La Siréne,
we refuse to hear you.
Mother of Waters, your children are dying
Ridley’s Sea Turtle
Loggerhead Sea Turtle
Green Sea Turtle
Mother of Birds, how many hatch this spring
to suffocate or starve, their parents drowned,
They suffocate in oil we drill
starve from oil we burn
die in oil we combust to carbon dioxide
to heat the planet, acidify the oceans
turn the living garden into a greenhouse.
We can’t live without burning it
for light for heat for medicine for driving to work
we can’t live without burning it
for television for Xboxes for cell phones for speed boats —
so we kill Phytoplankton
the bottom of the food web
those tiny, insignificant beings,
upon whom everything depends.
Then we kill Oysters we love on the half-shell
Bluefin Tuna for our sushi
Crabs on the table
Crabs at the bottom of the bay
that eat the remains of the dead.
We have killed the bayou the bay the islands
the coral reefs, the sea-grass beds, Elmer’s Island,
Grande Isle, Plaquemines Parish, Queen Bess Island, the Florida Keys.
Madame La Lune,
we did it ourselves.
We can’t ask you to save us
from our insatiable hunger for control
the addiction inside all of our addictions.
So we kill the gentle Manatees
Blue Whales, greatest of all mammals
Fin Whales, fearsome Sharks, the terrible Swordfish,
as we kill Wood Storks
The grasses oiled, the islands unravel.
The full force of the hurricane slams into New Orleans.
Eleven died in the explosion.
Fishermen lose their boats
Families lose their houses
Men lose themselves in whiskey
Children lose their families
Tonight at the table there is no Red Snapper
nobody comes to look at the sea.
Mother of Waters
Gran Bois, Grandmother of the Sacred Forest
we can’t even learn wisdom from this catastrophe
like children playing with matches
who burn down the house.
So we bury them under the sand
with diesel bulldozers
bodies of Herons
the Pelican who dove straight into the water
and came up gasping.
In the bars of Louisiana
someone carries sweating bottles of beer to the table
for the men who skimmed the Gulf all day in fumes.
Someone lights a candle in St. Louis Cathedral.
Someone lays a blue cloth on the altar,
sacrifices a fresh egg and seven tears.
Someone lies on the floor to listen to the surf
in the salty, oiled breeze.
Crabs crawl out of the ocean.
Frogs and Crickets fall silent in the marsh.
The boats come back from laying containment booms, hulls black.
The shrimpers have made their last runs.
Someone hands out checks , $2,500.
A woman fills the tank with gas, drives inland.
In an office they choose the next place on the map to drill.
Mother of Waters, Mother of Storms,
Oya of the torn curtains, Grandmother Hurricane,
we are not wise enough to listen
to the voices of the ancestors,
we can’t hear the waves
telling us what we sacrificed
on our altar of capital.
We would rather die than give up the oil.
We would rather burn down our house.
We would rather kill every living thing.
We would rather plow the bodies under the sand,
see the manatees rotting in the now-tropical sun,
green fields of the South cracked from drought,
Amazon forest on fire, the last glacier melted,
Pacific Ocean filled with particles of plastic,
children picking through garbage on bare asphalt.
Who can we pray to now,
Yemaya, Star of the Sea
as the turtles fall silently
through deepwater hydrocarbon plume?
Mother of Waters
When will we stand mourning on the beaches
of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, Mexico,
the white sands of Florida,
the Outer Banks of the Carolinas,
the shores of Puget Sound, Chesapeake Bay,
Long Island Sound, San Francisco Bay,
on the banks of the Potomac,
on the shores of the Thames,
on the quays of the Seine,
all along the Yellow River,
and say, no more oil?
How many headlines in the New York Times?
How many exploding wells and refineries?
How many islands inundated?
How many billion in quarterly profits?
How many crops devoured by insects?
How many climate refugees on the move?
How many wells infiltrated by salt?
How many glaciers melted?
How many drilling rigs?
How many entertainment systems?
How many jet flights to see the world?
Before we stand together on the ruined beaches
trying to catch our breaths
bones of dead birds scattered in stinking waves
no one in the deep to hear us
before we say it —
Mother of Oceans
when will we say it?
No more oil
No more oil
No more oil.
It’s not too late to heal this planet, but we need to get on it. My hope comes from the willingness of the natural world to work with us. The bacteria and fungi specialize in disassembling complex molecules. The plants are expert in restoration and rebuilding. Animals are great at forgiving and loving what’s here now. Today is the perfect day to remember our partnership with all living beings and start to turn things around.
Margot F. Boyer is a writer, poet, and educator whose interests include sustainable communities, social justice, organic gardening, and beekeeping. She is co-author (with Leticia Nieto et al) of the forthcoming Beyond Inclusion, Beyond Empowerment: A Developmental Strategy to Liberate Everyone. Margot lives on an island in Puget Sound with her husband Bob and several cats.