THREE POEMS by Deborah Poe


–after Charlie Riedel’s photograph (Associated Press)

there is a simple way to scoop a glob into the hands of buddha when you refrain from unwholesome imagine how it would be for wildlife attached to death and my skin heavy with oily compassionate toward sentient beings the pushback against feelings of helplessness not excluding the pelican glued to land or composite desiring anything you seek the emotion in a geyser way that can’t catch and the children ask ‘have they fixed the hole, have they stopped it?’ and there’s nothing to say, day after day after day after day.





All three pieces include text from Dōgen’s writings (tr. Arnold Kotler and Kazuaki Tanahashi. moon in a dewdrop. North Point Press, 1985).

In “Pelican” Jeremy Symons’ (National Wildlife Federation) words on the oil “spill” are also referenced in this poem, from an interview with The Washington Post.

Migration was propelled forward by Jen Graves’s article, “Everywhere and Spreading: Art, Disaster, Formlessness, and the Oil Spill,” Stephen B. Nguyen’s artist statement and Dōgen. “Migration” (west coast edition) is forthcoming (thanks A.G.).

“Roseau” is based on the New York Times photograph from 18 May, 2010: “Oil from the leaking gulf well washed into the grasses on the eastern side of the South Pass of the Mississippi River in Louisiana” (caption). This piece takes phrases from Peter Larkin’s essay and the notion of being-time in Leslie Scalapino’s essay. Both essays are found in the eco language reader (Brenda Iijima, Ed. Nightboat Books, 2010).



Last summer, I took my grandmother to the Aransas Wildlife Refuge on the Texas coast. We saw a variety of wildlife: boar, turkeys, deer and cranes. Though I thought it would be out of range, even Aransas Wildlife Refuge will likely struggle with contamination. The summer before I began college, my father was transferred to Fort Walton Beach, Florida. I spent many days during college breaks and summers along those beaches. The sand is like spun sugar. My friends and I traversed that stretch to and from Texas—along the Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama coast—many times to visit family. For this and many other reasons, I feel this environmental disaster deeply.

Discovering Kazim Ali’s statement the night it was published on the Poets for Living Waters site was particularly meaningful in terms of my new manuscript. Engaging community through poetry—and in fact across the arts—provides ways to challenge dominant ways of seeing (and being) in this country. And these dominant ways of seeing (and being) are producing results like the Gulf Oil Disaster. Writing is important because it allows us to imagine alternative realities. Both writers and readers of contemporary American poetry co-author meaning, negotiating often difficult human experiences, frequently by way of something other than ego-driven, divisive or smoke-and-mirror rhetoric (which we see plenty of in the media). If we shake the politics of language up through poetry, perhaps we can drive change, even if it’s not change in our lifetime.


Deborah Poe is the author of the poetry collections Elements (Stockport Flats Press 2010) and Our Parenthetical Ontology (CustomWords 2008). Deborah’s writing is forthcoming or has recently appeared in Jacket, Peaches & Bats, Colorado Review, Sidebrow, Ploughshares, Filter Literary Journal, Denver Quarterly and the anthology A Sing Economy (Flim Forum 2008). For more information, please visit

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s