by Miriam Sagan
because of the blood shed
by the Atlantis motel
because beneath the waves
a salt mill
so you will lick your arm
because the fairy tale is Russian
in the dream
where I stand ankle deep talking to you
on a cell phone
and suddenly the sea rises
and my mouth
is full of oil
because I am talking trash
because you are dead and never had a cell phone
so single-celled organisms float phosphorescent
because of our cruelty
so you will wipe the crumbs off the table
and to be like our tears
–Miriam Sagan founded and directs the creative writing program at Santa fe Community College. She is currently in residence at Gullkistan artist’s colony in Iceland. Her most recent book is Map of the Lost (UNM Press).She blogs at Miriam’s Well (http://miriamswell.wordpress.com)
by Latha Prem Sakhya
Rosy fingered dawn
Dancing on the placid sea,
Enticed the early morning walkers
To the beach,
Children spilled on the shore,
Engaged in enchanting games.
Unsuspecting fisher folk hastened,
Gearing up for the days’ fishing.
The half-awake village, groggy-eyed
Embarked on her daily chores.
Far away, in the dark, inky depth
Of the fathomless ocean,
Tethered in stables cavernous,
The wild furies-restive and impatient
Thrashed and lashed the ocean bed
Mother earth rocked and quaked.
The harness broke.
Unleashing the furies to surface-
To race thousand miles per hour,
To wreak vengeance
For their unjust captivity,
On that fatal morn.
The foaming, frothing, ocean-
Million, wild, stampeding horses,
Attacked ferociously, the benign, calm shore.
Gigantic dragon waves
Swallowed land and people;
Satiated, spat out the residue.
Debris of ruined buildings
Mangled vehicles and humans-
Injured, maimed, half alive,
To be ululated.
By the witnesses-
Survivors of natures’ holocaust!
(Written after the 2004 Tsunami that created havoc)
–Latha Prem Sakhya was born in 1959 in Kanyakumari District. Tamil Nadu, India .Her debut collection, Memory Rain comprised of 64 poems written mainly in free verse, was published by the Monsoon Editions in 2008. She teaches English at Mar Thoma College for Women, Perumbavoor.
by Nancy Boyd Schimmelman
Energy essence boils black into our shared womb,
Preventable pain pierces linked lives,
Sorcerer’s students tear veil between oozing depths and sheltering brine,
Nancy Boyd Schimmelman writes language that lets computers serve us, and tries to respect our shared life force.
By Charlotte Schmid
Like black Madonna
In a shiny robe
To explain her mission.
Her fiery essence spewed high into the sky
Then rained down on innocent life.
Coating the birds, the turtles, sea lions,
Algae and marsh grasses.
Oh yes, she said, it breaks my heart to do this
But I can bear it no more.
They rape me, take my strength
My wisdom, my beauty
I who am made of the ancient flora, fauna and all
The petrified skeletons, dinosaur’s dreams.
How else will they listen when I yell: Stop!
Stop the violence emptying my treasure chest
Deep down in the bowels?
How else will mankind notice
Heed nature’s wisdom?
How else will they know to leave my richness
Shining like gold in the sun
Deep in the earth where I belong
And not consume the last drop of my blood
Causing the death of the planet
— Early in life, Charlotte Schmid was influenced by the works of Hermann Hesse and Rainer Maria Rilke. She is now a grandmother and uses poetry as her spiritual practice. Her first collection of poems Passing Through was published in May 2010. Two poems will be published in the Marin Poetry Center Anthology in the fall of 2010.
By Judith Sarah Schmidt
may we learn to accept the places
we cannot go cannot see
may we be still sense the mystery
deep down in the earth and the sea
deep in the soil and waters
of our selves
may we learn to wait
for the seeds of the earth
and for the seeds of our dreams
as they slowly turn and turn
hidden beyond our reach
in pristine darkness
may we be patient until
we are touched suddenly
surprised from somewhere
as by a flash of a bird’s wings
swooping over clear waters
shimmering in flight
then gone but not before
awakening washing over
our modest lives
with waves of love
–Judith Sarah Schmidt is a poet, clinical psychologist in westchester county, new york and co founder of the center for intentional living, a professional
growth center for sacred psychology.
at My Husband’s Hi-tech Company
by Penelope Scambly Schott
a bunch of guys in a conference room
watched direct feed from under the Gulf.
They cheered for the hook and booed
when the long wire swung sideways
and missed. They chewed sandwiches
or peeled oranges or reheated coffee.
The office air conditioning kept blowing
and in the lab, expensive machinery
hummed and blinked. At six o’clock
the various smart guys drove home
in their cars. All that night, tar balls
floated into the reeds. Next morning
my husband made another sandwich:
pastrami and Swiss. All good guys.
–Penelope Scambly Schott most recent book is Six Lips. Her verse biography A is for Anne: Mistress Hutchinson Disturbs the Commonwealth won the Oregon Book Award for Poetry in 2008.
by James Schwartz
Between the Gulf’s tributaries oiled / soiled.
Over living waters boiled.
Though we toiled, the spill uncontained.
Mingled in the oily rain.
We strive to keep alive.
The vision of Gulf life alive.
Black the bayous and slicked remains.
Nothing to purify the oily rains.
–James Schwartz is a poet and slam performer striving for the simplicity of Cavafy mixed with modern gay wordplay and elements; Schwartz’s poetry/slam material dialogues of GLBTQ issues and affirmations of gay (night) life and love. Schwartz is the author of several poetry chapbooks including The Scarlet Band and Other Poems (2005). Schwartz’s poetry has been published by Poetry Life and Times, The Rainbow Gazzette, OutSide the Lines (Australia), The Poet’s Haven, Babel: The multilingual, multicultural online journal and community of arts and ideas, The New Verse News, Patricia Jebbah Wesley’s International Poetry Blog for Peace, Perry Brass.com, Queer Magazine Online, LGBT Asylum News, PoemDay and Love’s Chance Magazine (Summer 2010 issue).
By Patricia Roth Schwartz
Truth? Water invented god. In the
beginning water was, then us, who we
are, inside narrow channels inside us,
winging to all our far parts rivulets
of nourishment. When finally our own
particularities go rushing out to sea, that
water is still us, going where water takes
us and holds us close to her godly beating
heart, the one as small children we hear,
sleeping on cottage vacation porches, inside
shells that look like ears we press our own
ears to, water we pour like small crystal falls
falling into crystal glasses and take
Dreams are streams we swim/ sleep
ourselves into, flowing, dark, rapid as
heartbeats. I remember climbing toward
surface, toward wakefulness, deep inside a plane,
that womb-dark bird, having dreamt of belted-
in souls like ourselves gone flaming down,
no water to douse them, no god—only to look
up, to discover angels in blue serge streaming
down narrow passages bearing on trays small
vessels for each of us, full of pieces of rivers:
take drink become each other
by Ilka Scobie
There’s no end
There’s no consequence
Addicted to oil, America bows to
All encompassing affair
We don’t even now the torrential amounts
Oil escaping into waters
But it’s not our waters
It’s not our oil
It’s not our wetlands
And who can claim migratory songbirds, fish, turtles,
ducks, geese, bivalves, marshes, lakes, canals, bayous
No one can even bury the eleven dead rig workers
(because unlike the oil slicked flora and fauna,
the humans have simply vanished)
There is an end
There is consequence
These we must acknowledge,
Even if not of our creation
It’s a consequence of contamination
The legacy of our oblivious nation
– Ilka Scobie
by Ian Scott
The sea, the sea, the sea
Life, life, life
Death, death, death
Ian Scott is an Englishman, from the home of British Petroleum, who has spent his whole life travelling around and enjoying the world. He loves wildlife. The first time he snorkelled over a pristine coral reef off the east coast of Malaysia gifted him one of the most beautiful things he has ever seen; the time he swam with and touched sharks and stingrays off the coast of Belize was one of his most amazing sensory experiences. He is currently living on the south coast of Oman, where we have unspoilt beaches and wonderful marine life, and he is priveleged to be able to regularly swim with dolphins and turtles. What has happened in the Gulf of Mexico has devastated him. All he can react with is a huge sigh. He is sure the people accidentally responsible for this disaster feel devastated. Together we have to find a better way. Wind power? Do we want the sea covered with windmills on pylons? Maybe we don’t, but maybe the wildlife does.
by Jonathan Scott
Is gulp-bellied and quiet, he is utterly sure, for the first time in his life,
That he will survive death.
Liquefied, cleaner than the breath of mountains. It fills his lungs.
A bubble floats from the darker blue, encompassing a world.
Strange continents like amniotic fetuses globulate within.
He quits, simply surrenders,
Suspended between gravity and buoyancy. He sees the candles lit for him,
The wreaths, and hears the hoarse roar of the furnace, feels it. He swallows
Then is swallowed by the gathered spectrum–gone from here
In search of his survival.
–Jonathan H. Scott’s poetry and short-stories have been published (or are upcoming) in Measure, The Broome Review, Caesura, The Able Muse, The White Pelican Review, and Aura Literary Arts Review. He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his family. He also shares his poetry on his blog “Elsewhere Crows are Laughing” at jonathanhscott.blogspot.com.
by Ed Seymour
Seen at any level
At the surface
Suspended in the middle
Spewing at the bottom
In the political sense
Encouraged to drill
Or much cared
In search of
Floating, Suspended and Sinking
News no longer cares
In the ocean
Life along the coasts, suffocated
The new attraction
Will be called
Gulf of tar and slime
Hold feet to the oil fire
They cannot flee
All sea creatures
Of picking out
Off all this mess
At all levels, period!
–Ed Seymour has been writing poems for about 20 years but only actively participating with Open Mics for the last few years. He is the son in the family who inherited the propensity for writing poems. His habit is funded by a 29 year career in IBM designing computer chips.
by Alice Shapiro
A sensitive child
I cried to save the world.
Injustice, war, the poor
were my issues alone
to answer for
no floor, no ceiling limiting
a duty, a pledge, a chore
for lack of capacity
more heart than ability.
A lost and hurting adolescent
I blamed myself for worldly pain —
lack of desert rain, hurricanes
and earthquakes killing thousands.
I stepped off solid ground
and found a door so many find…
An old and wiser being
to find the difference
between God’s plan
and the world’s incompetence
those acts, those deadly sins
that cause destruction.
Oil spills heading for my shore
cradling blackened sea-beasts.
More horror than faith
–Alice Shapiro is author of two poetry collections with a third to be released in 2011. She has also produced “The Change Interviews,” an audio project for Pushcart Prize poetry winners and nominees. Originally from New York, Shapiro currently lives in a small town west of Atlanta.
By Christopher Shea
Mired in greed
Fish they will feed
Judges and gentlemen
Neither in need
Sea turtle dies
Crystal clear ocean
Bankers they scramble
Lawyers will ramble
Forsake the worker
Mover and Shaker
Break not the deal
Markets will reel.
See what we’ve done
Oh miracle worker
Cast not your net
The fish they will die
Frustration and hate
Solutions too late
Remember the photo
An ocean so clean
A fisherman’s son
Fulfilling his dream
Dolphins they swam
White sands shifting
An ocean so blue
By Lucille Gang Shulklapper
climb oil-bathed rocks.
Dispersed bodies drop
with the clarity of stillness
–Lucille Gang Shulklapper ‘s work appears in many publications, as well as in four poetry chapbooks, What You Cannot Have, The Substance of Sunlight, Godd, It’s Not Hollywood, and In The Tunnel.
By Guillermo Silveira
Orange red oil fractals,
Embracing dead sea life, killed turtles, dolphins, seagulls,
Pelicans, while uncountable distinguished species drenched,
By BP’s corporation black gold, did carry their intoxication
Through marshes and shores eloquently showing
That the so “useful” oil doesn’t speed our life, it kills it.
While innocent cement pretended to contain the disaster
A current carried oil around the Florida’s peninsula
Painting its shores with deadly spoiled rotten broken lines.
An early cyclone entered the Mexican Golf
To decorate the landscape as a huge
Pollock’s canvas of environmental size.
Oil rain, a new phenomenon, prologues
Unexpected fires while contaminating
Vast living areas of a precious land.
Now, the Atlantic East Coast needs purification.
Brigades of religious groups, environmentalists,
And arm forces work hard to clean the splash
Of another expected bleeding earth wound.
We are not ready to contain our bloody planet
Or understand its life cycles. It’s obvious that
Comparative catastrophic behavior has to stop.
Our planet is a drop of pollution rotating
Around its sun. Non recyclable materials are ready
For the earth fatal cycles to re shape them drastically.
The environmental dialog with our globe
Is not fair to nature or to our own nature.
To use clean natural energy sources
beats nature’s abuse and its catastrophes.
Listen to this requiem for the spill oil victims…
— Poet and composer, he presents his poems and songs since 1964. Guillermo writes in English and Spanish, his poems appear in concerts, magazines, art museums, and media readings. Many of his poems inspired him new music and chamber operas.
By Gabrielle Simons
I will miss the thought of manatees
Lazing in the coastal seas
Prehistoric gentle beasts
Of ocean waters, warm.
I will long for the regal flight
Of graceful beauty, egret white
Or to see him stand knee deep in marsh
Searching for his supper.
No more, no more
Hang head and weep
For oily waters
Of ocean deep
Woe, oh woe
All have fled
And man has left
These waters dead
For their ghosts will cry,
“We are gone by
The greed of man.”
by Kevin Simmonds
there is none
Kevin Simmonds is a writer, musician and photographer originally from New Orleans. His work appears in Asia Literary Review, Chroma, FIELD, jubilat, Kyoto Journal,Massachusetts Review, Poetry and elsewhere. Most recently, he wrote the musical score for Hope: Living and Loving with AIDS which won a 2009 News and Documentary Emmy Award. He edited Ota Benga Under My Mother’s Roof, a collection of poems by the late poet Carrie Allen McCray, forthcoming from the University of South Carolina Press. He lives in San Francisco. kevinsimmonds.com
by Brenda Skinner
It’s been said
We’re really just dead,
Perhaps this is true–
In dying: lose, lose, lose.
A fortune deplete,
One might wake instead.
–Brenda Skinner, “I care for the earth and what is happening in the Gulf.”
by Austin Smith
– Tony Hayward, former CEO of British Petroleum,
speaking to students at Stanford Business School,
May 12, 2009
The bubble grew like glass
filling with a glass blower’s breath
and rose up the drill column
like a prayer, exploding there,
thinking it had found the ear
of its god. Those closest to it
stood for a moment in bodies
of ash before collapsing
and the wind the heat
invented spread what moments
before had been men.
These were lucky compared
to those who were further off
and found themselves suddenly
running around on fire.
These leapt into the water
if they could, but the water
was on fire, too. And even
after they were dead, the flames
kept snacking on them
like jackals, though some
were spared their eyes to stare
as if they were still alive.
In Kent the phone reached down
and pulled Mr. Hayward out
of his dream by his hair.
As he answered the phone
he was trying to remember
the dream. And as he said,
“What?” and woke his wife
he was thinking of the dream.
As he dressed the dream.
As he drove the dream.
As they assembled “the team”
and dragged the desks together
like some board room Pangaea
and as the charts were tacked
on the wall the dream. The dream
when the President called.
All those hours he sat before
the cameras talking the dream.
“I’d like my life back.”
As he buttoned his body shut
in the clean white cotton shirt,
a flower the color of a tiger
lily was spreading its glassy petals
upon the waters. Its stem strove
up towards its accomplishment
upon the surface of the water.
Can it be blamed for its desire?
It was like a new cartography.
The stars lost themselves
in its darkness: they couldn’t
know themselves in it.
They were lances lathed in oil.
But it didn’t matter: they died
American White Pelican,
Crowned Night Heron,
All of them blackbirds now.
In time it came to sleep orangely
in the mangrove coves
like something it could become
possible for them to love.
Nights whole families
would walk down to where
the water hemmed the shore
and just stare. The older
men would start whispering
about how it used to be
and how it would be
at the end of time, quoting
the Gospels, saying,
“The kingdom of heaven
is like a net
that was thrown
into the sea
and gathered fish
of every kind.
When it was full,
men drew it ashore
and sat down
and sorted the good
but threw away
the bad. So it will be
at the close of the age.
The angels will come out
and separate the evil
from the righteous
and throw them
into the fiery furnace.
In that place
there will be weeping
and gnashing of teeth.”
But their sons said, “Shh,”
wondering what that old story
had to do with them.
Years from now, he’ll remember.
Playing golf, the thwack sound
of the ball will tear into his brain
like a bullet and he’ll remember
what it was he was dreaming
that night: I was dreaming
I was a boy again, alone
in a field outside Slough.
It was windy and I was lost
and the sky was growing dark
from one specific point
off to the East, as if a black
handkerchief was being pulled
through a little hole.
But I wasn’t afraid.
by Ryan Smith
a lake in New Orleans
and we won’t know.
Not because we’re too busy
sleeping or eating
donuts, shuffling our feet
or filling prescriptions,
changing dirty sheets
or scripting a
out or filling
We won’t know because we toured there
a few years back and haven’t since forgotten
what it was like to constantly hear the echo
of a ghost trapped inside an industrial park,
smell the fires of a flood, or the silly optimism
that follows an oil spill.
The last time Rodrigo
hitched his wagon to a star
he wound up edging about
in rubber outers, wiping the muck
from the pretty white faces
No, we really shouldn’t grow too old
without first driving back down for
a parade and clean catfish,
or to pile wood
on a funeral fire.
— Ryan Smith received a BA in English Literature from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. He lives in Boston and works for 826 Boston, a non-profit writing and tutoring center dedicated to teaching creative writing to students ages 6-18.
(New Orleans, Aug. – Sept. 2005)
By Joseph A. Soldati
to pull the water’s surface down past you. No
horizon no separation between air and water
only the smothering dark the water and no
air–a dog wailing from a rooftop–then, after
the frantic struggle, nothing nothing nothing,
a peace you did not want and can’t understand.
Slowly now you float facedown in fetid water.
Sometimes a tree rakes between your legs,
leafless branches scrape your eyes. Under
the relentless sun your body bloats, the burned
skin splits, flies breed in the sores.
In the meandering current you bump
against other bodies, a grotesque greeting
and farewell your outstretched hands.
You drift by houses and through parking lots,
then swirl briefly like a leaf in an eddy
against a church, your only salvation the distant sea.
— Joseph A. Soldati has published poems and essays in a variety of literary journals, magazines, and anthologies. This past April he was a featured poet at the Silverton Poetry Festival (Oregon’s largest poetry festival). He is the author of four books, most recently the poetry chapbook, Apocalypse Clam (Finishing Line Press, 2006).
Stavanger, 1980: The Mysterious Gift
by Mary Austin Speaker
She could not tell what it was for, the thick
black sludge that tipped from one end of the jar
to the other. Her father brought it home from work
after a missed Christmas. She was four.
She got it everywhere, and probably cried,
her dress done-in, her hands ashamed. Who knows
how badly oil can stain when you’re a kid?
Worse than she cared to know—she once saw crows
in Galveston with wings stuck fast in crude
hardening to asphalt. “It’s oil. It’s from
the sea,” he said, as if that made it good,
as if it had crept out on its own from
that deep bed, broke the glassy surface of
the sea, and leapt onto the shore with love.
–Mary Austin Speaker is the author of the recent chapbook Abandoning the Firmament (Menagerie Editions 2009); curator and co-founder of Triptych Readings poetry series; art director for Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers; and a former poetry editor of Indiana Review. Her work can be found in recent or forthcoming issues of Boston Review, H_NGM_N, Iowa Review, Sentence, Failbetter and elsewhere.
By Scott T. Starbuck
glow like pieces of broken off sun
or rock candy
featuring ships in bottles,
crawfish, shrimp, oysters,
dolphins, sea turtles,
manatees, leaping fish,
and human faces —
all things that,
minus the lies of BP,
could still be today.
- This poem appeared at The Foster Collective’s Landslide Gallery Show , “Gulf Oil Disaster Response” in July and August, 2010, in Chicago which featured art and words on gas station paper towels. Scott T. Starbuck is the Interim Creative Writing Coordinator at San Diego Mesa College, and lives near The Clackamas River in Oregon. Pudding House published his new chapbook of nature and protest poems, The Warrior Poems, in June 2010, and his next chapbook will be published by Mountains and Rivers Press .
by Hannah Stephenson
Like resurrected pterodactyls rising from tar,
the birds emerge, dragging sludge-sodden wings.
flanked by grooves, like the marks left by skis.
sand. The birds stumble under the mass placed
onto them, a brown-black cloak, a leaden veil.
It was not our intention to suffocate these birds
with their own bodies. We are so very sorry.
We offer what we can, money, soap emblazoned
with the image of a dove, a steady, gloved palm.
Explosion, detonation, flame, death–we understand
these things. Finite. Spill, too, implies a completed
action, finished, accidental. Infuriated, aching
we watch what we made and keep making,
an unnatural disaster in progress. It is undoable,
it is still happening. What trawls the soul about
this spill, that horrible monster down there:
it is an alien we trapped, a dinosaur that we awoke,
a dark beast we tried to harness. We called out to it.
–Hannah Stephenson is a poet, writer, and instructor living in Los Angeles. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in ouroboros review, Mankind Magazine, Spoonful, The Birmingham Arts Journal, FORTH Magazine, and Artsy!Dartsy!. You can visit her daily poetry blog, The Storialist, at http://www.thestorialist.com.
Crude Oil Liners have only skimmed the surface on the damage below.
Everglades, Wetlands, all Coastlines need relief, flickering hope.
Suffering Wildlife, Pelicans and A Great White Whale was washed ashore.
Pay heed to the crackling and popping of the Gulf Coast floor.
giver of birth;
upon you rains,
crude oil stains.
Guardian Angel, Ghost of Life
holding the moon both day and night.
where Gulf waters meet the horizon black,
vanishing shorelines. Let us pray for all we lack;
fresh clear blue water meeting beaches, where the young do play;
Overlooking a mirrored sunset at the close of day,
peering into the water watching fish nibble their toes,
caressing another moon-rise, partaking the spirit of the wind as it blows.
giver of birth;
upon you rains,
crude oil stains.
–Nell Bolden writes under the pen name of StormyMoonWind and has been creating poetry with writing groups since 2oo5.
Published three poems in “Whispering Souls”. The title of the poems are: “Run, Little One, Run”, “Love Lingers” “My Child”. Soul Asylum Poetry has been a place Nell visits often to create her poetry. Currently, Nell is a member of the Writers Guild of Acadiana in Lafayette, Louisiana the home of the Cajuns.
By Linda Straub
forests of green kudzu,
tall cedars transfigure
into a Jurassic topiary park.
Red clay precedes miles
of Mississippi marshland.
The whistle blows,
white gates and red lights
fall across macadam,
and a line of cars
snakes around the bend.
Iron rails disappear
into Lake Pontchartrain,
on New Orleans shores.
You wait at the station,
already in your hands.
–Linda Straub lives in Central Pennsylvania and has been submitting poetry for publication for approximately 14 years. Her work has appeared in print and on line in a variety of magazines to include Poetrymagazine.com, Writers magazine, Cat Fancy, Miller’s Pond, Parnassus Literary Journal, etc. She was recently in New Orleans and was touched by the families who have been impacted by the Gulf Oil tragedy and seeking financial and emotional support.
“Follow the trolley that bears the casket”
by Lynn Strongin
Follow the trolley that bears the casket
witnesses & mourners fall silent.
Words that reach out of the grave speak for me, over air that is water;
would I ever go back to glassing in fireflies?
If I’d been the goodly, born boy
pretending I was Tom Sawyer, better yet Huckleberry
catching guppies in Hellmanns’ jars?
I would be the frail child of the Shoah, Holocaustal flame & air beating around me
& I not disabled but trapped
painting on the walls of the ward, my cave
May they follow the casket on a bright May day (earth, ash & water)
to the deep earth & tall longbone sky
that receive me.
–Born in NYC 1939, Lynn Strongin has had twelve books published and was nominated this year for the Pulitzer Prize in letters. She lives in Canada. A forthcoming feature of her work HAVE MERCY will appear in Word-for-Word online, edited by Jonathan Minton. The web site for Strongin’s work is http://members.shaw.ca/stronginweb/index.html.
by Scott Sweeney
Are you plagued with sound?
Stopped on the pathway
from information to understanding,
from happenstance to divine choreography,
are you not a conduit?
In the Great Wide Open of space,
the comet’s tail points, like a finger,
It’s a transmission from a coalescence
to the void—
blacker than Louisiana crude.
Are you the irradiated meat of our supper?
Are you the Last Supper? A long table
with inward-leaning apostles?
When you stand on any Gulf pier
and stare out over the rolling turquoise-blue,
will you think of Jesus
as the horizon reddens
into weathered, free-phase product—
your hyperbolic exclamations punctuated
by sticky tar balls?
Will you cry out—
shriek, squeak, squawk—
like the cursed birds, covered in oil?
Make a fist and shake it at the horizon,
at the drilling rigs you can’t even see.
Make your hand into a finger-gun
and point it, aim it,
at the world we’re destroying,
— Scott Sweeney has published poems in several small-press and online journals, including BlazeVOX, Borderlands, Heavy Bear, and Möbius. He also co-founded Grey Book Press, which produces journals (most recently Momoware) and chapbooks. Scott lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with his wife and daughter and two Siamese cats.
By Glenn Taylor
maybe not in walking distance or
a quick car ride, but close enough that
the scent of stars is heavy.
This makes looking down,
into coastal waters, so ethereal. It is dusk
& crisp. The hum of bystanders rouses
the engines awake, sound becoming
one long, low note. Most will never know
the inside of that ship, the nerves shooting
out of fingers. Most just creep to the edge,
stick toes in, stir, & groan when
skin is returned heavy blacked.
in the wind tonight,
quietly crying in
her marshy home by the sea.
She thinks that no one
can hear her tonight,
she keeps on crying,
she cannot sleep.
I had seen her going
by the sea today,
while the sun started to set
beneath her shoulders.
She must have thought
she was alone by the water,
as she turned the faces
she keeps for others,
she turned them under.
There was that much loveliness
in the face she gave today,
alone and rising and
spilling over the sand.
And I had to turn
behind the dunes,
or drown inside the tide
made by her open face.
But there was also a sign,
a shivering signal
in the evening sea sky’s
It was a sign to start
the love’s heart to hurt,
with her autumn eyes
she must’ve seen it too.
The the chill in the wind,
what fused sky’s rim.
If only I could see
the summer star shining
in her eyes once more.
–Terreson is a poet, sometime novelist, short story writer, and essayist. A native of Florida, he currently lives in Louisiana where he works in honey bee husbandry. Most recently the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation awarded him an honorarium.
I am Birdshit and Bits of Twine
by Maria Garcia Teutsch
I am an eggshell spotted and slick warm underneath my mother, my father
I am hiding in reeds, like baby Moses, you have to look to find me there
I am flying, pinion wings tilt and I land splat, blobs and blobs where water should be
I smell now, I am cold, feel the shiver through you, feel the tremble where my wing
Meets your blue waters, your petroleum nightmare, red eyes peering out of a hollow egg
The crack is in your left tibula, the crack is an alligator’s egg, the crack is its open maw
Drinking your soccer mom soup, your big bad ass SUV, your yellow stickers, your son
At war, and still it pumps in my veins, pumps in the sperm of the sperm whale,
Turtles who do know something about truth are dead now, the silver fishes in poems are dead now, the ocean has leukemia and it’s contagious.
I am a spawning loggerhead, I am plankton–
Here’s your blue plague in the iris of a blue fin tuna, here’s your black plague all over my scales, my mouth is a beak, the nipple my baby sucks is coated with ooze, my milk is
thick and wet like turpentine, come, drink a toast with me, pump and pump, it’s time
to stop now, but still you pump, you won’t stop will you?
Here’s a vast canvas, a swath of ducks trying to get up, keep warm, not die
Here’s me falling as I stand up, I smash each egg, dolphin skull, seal and water lily,
I painted all of the Monet’s in the National Gallery black. They are black now, it is
Truth, but there’s no beauty there. Beauty is pumping through my veins, through
My ocean, through my webbed feet, my toenails are blackened half-moons, and they are,
They are not, beautiful. –Maria Garcia Teutsch
By Chezia Thompson Cager
Loosed by a maverick hate
To see that you are young
A sliver of a gentle man, a maiden
Against fluid skies
Blue and over laden
A Daughter of Home Tree
Sinking in metal waste
Deposited by those who cannot see
Here I stand
To be, to be, to be always viewed differently
On this land
And so you will this night
ascend with fierce prayers
to the language of walking in the light
I stand your witness, always – to your right
–Chezia Thompson Cager is the daughter of Great Migration parents who has survived the impossible to gratefully see the 21st century.
By Madeline Tiger
Redwing blackbirds fly all around the pond,
in and out of the nearby woods.
the small bright crimson stripe.
Max was catching butterflies, little white sulphurs
with the tiny black spots
and Solomon was catching snapshots of Max
Sally was stepping around the goose poop
in oversized rubber boots (she was 4
and kept up) keeping up with talking
non stop the nets bobbing
and the butterflies flitting
and the choruses from the woods
and the ripples where fish jump and the waterfall
and the heat, the heat.
It was the first day, they’d just come out of the long
white stretch limousine
from the airport. My son was off on a run or a
Starbuck’s run or a wine-search run
and we were deep into our One Day (with a Feast
to come.) We live so far apart,
every visit packs life times life, experience
is what the brightness teaches
the visitor to this earth, a child’s folly,
a grandparent’s folly:
the song in the thicket, little swirls of
butterflies, the waving wands,
the bright eyes, and there I was, in the middle
of my difficult life
having done the roasting and the worry,
the waiting, the holding my tongue;
having done the planning,
remembering to buy cherries;
having slicing garlic; having made beds and
called numbers and hired a car.
Having unlatched the gate, having
one afternoon this daily life. Here.
–Madeline Tiger’s most recent collections of poems are The Earth Which Is All (2008) and Birds of Sorrow and Joy: New and Selected Poems, 1970-2000 (2003). Her tenth collection is The Atheist’s Prayer, which is being published by Dos Madres Press this spring, 2010. Her work appears regularly in journals and anthologies. She has been teaching in state programs and private workshops since 1973 and has been a “Dodge Poet” since 1986. She has five children and seven grandchildren and lives in Bloomfield, NJ under a weeping cherry tree.
Antitrust Scrutiny of Apple
by Nicky Tiso
It’s nesting season here.
Three weeks I’ve seen yr remains running, wondering if they should cancel
I’ve heard larva’s twitter feeds panhandle industries
Of clockwise feeling, some terrible airlifted odds, beaten.
I’m surprised you declined
Before dragging yourself onto the sand
To lay another clutch of eggs
When this breeding blowout
Still has tissue to test
After you covered my head with numbers
Olive in color
Did another partial necropsy on 17, 50
High-pitched solar screams on payroll for OPEC
To fewer options
Do signals breathe? Dumped internal colonies
Tell me how to make this moment
Feeling better and better about looming threats
Carried out under normal circumstances
That a wiped meadow makes room
For a motel
For tourists its disaster season
This year, plenty of rooms still available
Wildlife needs to die
Before we can commission to investigate
What it is we need
This issue we can’t
Strengthens our country’s
What we need
For a solution
Seen by the public
To produce more of them
A great team, assembled
Whose job is also
To ask for another
End to this historic
Cut in how many Times Square bombers
In this wake
What we had done on the morning of 9/12
Or have democrats already asked for another fear
They will scream
I don’t buy
Without carrying on sadly
In the wind, solar, electric
Who would support
Love without a fixed
Or are you going to squander your 9/11 too?
–Nicky Tiso is a recent graduate of The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, where he studied poetics and politics. He will be doing an internship with Siglio Press in September. His work has previously been published by Wheelhouse, Ditch, Thieves Jargon, Admit 2, and No Record Press.
by Valerie Valdes
The very deep did rot: O Christ!
That ever this should be!
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea.
–The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Once an albatross chick, now
a corona of feathers wreathed
around a cluster of bright baubles,
death by starvation with a stomach full
of plastic fed by loving parents,
picked and pecked on Pacific islands
accreted slowly from trash.
Hang its corpse around your neck and lick
sweat and sea salt from your lips.
Day after day after day,
the vortex of confetti swirls
beneath the pea-green surface,
a gyre of effluent and debris
melting under a copper sky.
Bite your arm and suck the blood
tainted by a chain of food
that begins with tiny fish who dart
in and out of grocery bag reefs, rises
from jellyfish to tuna to tin cans
at the store, wet your parched throat
to break the silence of the sea.
–Valerie Valdes writes mostly microfiction and flash fiction with
occasional bouts of short stories and poetry. She graduated from the
University of Miami with a degree in literature. Her work has appeared
in Birdville Magazine, Every Day Poets, amphibi.us, and vis a tergo.
by Heather VanHoose Truett
I watch the oil covered birds on the TV news.
I watch footage of fire and flame,
An explosion that killed eleven men.
Not just eleven men but,
Eleven of us,
Our future hanging in the balance
While black crud gushes into the water,
So we can drive SUVs and minivans?
So we can get where we want to go
Faster than ever before?
So we can escape the world
Made for us?
The world we are supposed
To care for?
If God said,
If God wept like any mother would
Over the treatment of her child,
Wept like any father would
Over the destruction of his family.
If tomorrow does not come,
I could not blame our God
For giving up on us.
by Donna Vorreyer
of the ribs
— Donna Vorreyer is a poet and teacher in the Chicago area. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in many journals, and her chapbook Womb/Seed/Fruit debuted this year from Finishing Line Press.
By Brigit Truex
to the mall
one long-plumed egret
weighted with my greater
need, unable to lift himself
from the tar-slick sawgrass
or the prodigal turtle
and instinct to an ancient shore
retracing her unmappable route
through once-turquoise waters
now netted black as eyes film,
lungs clog with desperation.
will never be the same.
–Brigit Truex has been published in Atanta Review, Canary and Manzanita, as well as such anthologies as I Was Indian, Drum Voices Review, and Sacramento: 100 Best Poems. Her latest collection, from Rattlesnake Press, is A Counterpane Without.
by Michael Urness
In the shadow, under stars, moon, silent passing comets
Fire, Water and Wind in alchemy of the blackest sort
The night retreats in the face of what
the sun, this close
Eleven missing, presumed dead.
Presumed sons, brothers, dirty hands, strong backs.
Presumed remembered, named, mourned, silent.
Presumed carbon, hydrogen, oxygen.
And it was here, 65 million years ago,
when death came from the sky surely as
now it comes from the ground, beneath the sea.
fearful of the suffocation they can’t understand as
oxygen is displaced, flounder and fumble.
Tyrant overthrown by the hammer of heaven.
Bones burned or buried in primordial memory.
History best left that way. Until…
Until man, like a mold, spread across the face of the Earth.
Like a festering sore he spit up puss, sickening to look at.
She prayed, “Drill, baby, drill” and drove and flew
and wrapped it in plastics and cosmetics made it all
look less like the sow–
–its slop measured in millions of barrels a day
Ixtoc, the clock, does not run backwards
always forward, always pumping with each
breath, beat, heart pounding, well pulsing
Crude blood, bile, bilge bubbling up
spurting, coughing, disease
What did you learn in school today?
I learned that no one ever learns,
nothing ever changes,
we are all to blame.
“And God said, ‘Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures…’ So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds…and God saw that it was good.”
And then: Fueled by a libido unrestrained,
these same creatures fucked
by this stain,
this oozing Paleozoic shit we (figuring ourselves God)
thought was good.
We have created a monster, conjured him from the depths.
Hydrocarbon Godzilla, the atomic age need not apply.
From space we look as doomed, as helpless.
On the timeline we are merely a blundering blip,
not even thunder beasts, only pride and bone.
From stone and sweat and darkest fear we
were born and to that we will return.
The cities of light only a brief,
an aberration that as quickly
is burning itself out
In the morning, over coffee, mothers
will regret. Sons and daughters will wait
on docks and doorsteps for footfalls.
But only this slick come to call,
this ferocity. Petroleum panther,
as sin on our hands.
Silence on the sands
Sacrilege in the car
Lifeless as the moon
What defense can we offer?
To the birds of the air, the
swarms of the deep that
I have offended.
Combustion turning onward
does not cease, not to
wash our hands, not to
count our dying.
When judgment comes,
from the living things of the earth,
the beasts of the field, what mitigation
can I present?
–Michael Urness is an aspiring writer living in Lafayette, LA. He works for Habitat for Humanity, and attended the University of Minnesota Morris.
by Mark Vian
So the consequences are dispersed
So the costs are dispersed
So the responsibility is dispersed
So the cleanup is…
There will be no cleanup.
The fats in our livers will be dispersed.
The lipids in each of our cells will be dispersed.
The truth will be dispersed.
The pain will be dispersed.
And the grief will…
No, the grief will bioaccumulate.
–Mark Vian is a restoration ecologist, poet and musician living in the Kaaterskill Creek Watershed in upstate New York.
Gulf Oil Spill
by Hannah VanderHart
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
It flames out like God on the water, see the print
of it, the muddy spirit. Look at our wealth
on the waters; it separates the heavens and
the earth like a poor philosophy.
It is night
when it should be day; there is much more than we
dream of here. The agon of our desire
wrestles on the water, can never find
its footing on the water—maybe it
is not the God of our confused dreams.
the snows in jars? Well, we have barrels-full,
and pipes that stream the deep, deep love of self
we feel: inner light is the doctrine, provable.
Inner light has an inverse dark and in the slick
of our dreams we may have confused materials.
–Hannah VanderHart, MFA, George Mason University, lives by the Severn River in Annapolis with her husband Luke. She comes from an agrarian background and is a Virginia native. She has poetry published and forthcoming in The Basilica Review, Measure: A Review of Formal Poetry, and So To Speak.
Q & A
by Pramila Venkateswaran
That grows by the second?
It’s the crude, stupid.
On the ocean floor?
With CEOs, what else?
Did we learn our lesson
From our many oil spills?
Arrogance and ignorance
Is a fatal combination.
When will we ever learn?
Only when we suffocate like
The sea creatures.
What’s the planet’s response?
Stand still, so you hear the tiniest
life beat in animal or rock.
–Pramila Venkateswaran is the author of three books of poetry: Thirtha (Yuganta Press, 2002), Behind Dark Waters (Plain View Press, 2008), and Draw Me Inmost (Stockport Flats, 2009). An award-winning poet, she has performed her poems internationally, most recently in the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival. Her essays and reviews have appeared in Women’s Studies Quarterly, Journal of Postcolonial Writing, and Socialism and Democracy. She is an Associate Professor of English at SUNY Nassau.
water off a duck’s…
by Erin Virgil
I wake up and find
I’m trapped in a lagoon,
but the water is gone: something else in its place, black and brown.
It sticks to me all over
drags down my feathers when I try to raise my wing.
What is this smell, there is weight in it
and the liquid grit is in my eyes now,
and mouth, nose, lungs, anus.
I can feel it soaking into my skin, a reverse wound,
the outside coming into me.
I don’t want it in my body, it’s heavy, it’s coarse
so I dive down, I’ll swim beyond its claws
but I can’t find my way
nothing is familiar
there’s too much darkness
–Erin Virgil is an MFA student at Naropa University. She lives in Boulder, Colorado, at the foot of a mountain.
by Gabe Vondershnickle
We’ve gotten ourselves in such
with this [hole
polluting the earth thing…
We ate too many cookies
and sp [oiled
How to stop the gears, shifting and twisting, [out of control?
I don’t think it’s up to me
but I still choose to ride]
By Barbara Wagner
and watched silent black waves crash
against oil slick sand,
the salty breeze gagging me
with a stench that branded my lungs.
The vibrant beauty of a California sunset
morphed into a hideous haze,
skin ripped from its flawless face
oozing black blood.
The birds – helpless –
their feathers heavy with oil
screeched in terror
as rescuers struggled to save them.
Seal carcasses dotted the shoreline
like gruesome sculptures in coal
while dolphins with clogged blowholes
hemorrhaged in their lungs.
Fishermen lifted nets coated with black slime
into damaged boats,
and watched their livelihood flapping, fading,
black liquid seeping from gills.
I stood on the beach in Santa Barbara
for the fish dying
and the birds screeching
and the sea
vomiting its poison onto the beach.
I cried for the sights and sounds and smells
I knew would never leave me.
I cried because I would never again
innocently ride a wave into shore,
never again taste the brine on my lips
I cried for what we had done
and what we had lost
even as my ripening hope
believed the world would
let it happen
–Barbara Wagner performs her poetry and fiction throughout the Philadelphia and New Jersey area, including the Philadelphia Fringe Festival and the televised “Café Improv” program in Princeton, NJ. She has been published in Mad Poets Review and In Our Own Words and has had her work read on the children’s website Smories.com. Her awards include the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference.
By the Gulf
by Catherine Wagner
suck brights from all dally-halls
and string them christmas mines.
Will folded, made a napkin
Old agendas used to clean my mouth
I do this thing?
Ironically. That is
I’ll go against myself.
“Excuse me, who is responsible for the oil spill in the Gulf?”
“Well, did you drive here?”
“I had no choice.”
“Who took your choice?”
I hear that train a comin’.
Comin’ round the mend.
“If we don’t have oil we’ll need slaves, or none of us will ever read or paint.”
“I don’t see what’s wrong with not getting paid, if you’re getting fed and housed. I didn’t get to choose whether I drove here. I’ll be a slave if it will save the planet.”
“OK, you’re a slave.”
“Textbook will say: ‘When slavery was colorblind it became acceptable. Whether this was coincidence is matter…’”
“But only one in ten men is colorblind. The rest of us might use color to decide who slaves will be.”
“De jure, black is the absence of color.”
“De jure, it won’t be that noticeable if they start up again with black people.”
“Anybody here who’s de facto black?”
“I’m afraid to speak for anybody in a different identity category.”
“Let’s play the game where, if you put a white token on either end of a line of black tokens, the blacks become white.”
“It works the other way too. Gray dawn.”
“De jure or de facto?”
“How many slaves will you need to maintain your standard of living sans oil?”
“A slave for the bicycle jitney. A lawn-mowing slave. A slave to cook and load compressed wood pellets into the wood stove. I can do that. But then will need a slave to weed and clean and launder.”
“Three slaves per household?”
“Three to five.”
“Will you be one of mine?”
“Let’s all take turns.”
“Can’t come to your birthday party, it’s my slave week.”
“Volunteer slavery – yeah, it won’t last. No one will want to ride the bicycle jitney.”
“Not in hot weather.”
“Or up the San Francisco hill to the poet’s house.”
“Need categories of us.”
“A use for identity politics.”
“A use for identity.”
“They also serve who only stand and wait.”
“Heidegger called them ‘standing reserve.’”
“If some of us are to be slaves, it’s a good thing there’s this income disparity.”
“It does make it easier.”
“A feudal system, stabilized…”
“By international trade.”
“But freedom is a value.”
“Say ‘freedom has a value.’”
“Mmm, it can be traded.”
“Freedom x Need = Reality.”
———- = Art.”
“Then Art x Reality = Freedom.”
———- = Reality?”
“Where art is politics.”
“Where am I to go? Oh, hey, hey, hey, Johnny, where am I to go?”
“I am where to go! I am where to go, dear Johnny.”
“What are you to me?” “Oh, I’ll (hey, hey, hey, Johnny) tell you when you’re mine.”
[unison]: “Go our separate way together—Tell me when you’re mine.”
–Catherine Wagner’s newest book is My New Job (Fence, 2010). She lives in Oxford, Ohio.
The only blessing
by Diane Walker
is the blessing in this,
the gush and flow
of marsh, and fish;
of beaches, birds and livelihoods?
I try so hard to see
that every curse contains a blessing,
but here, in this disaster,
I can see only death;
the good of many lost
to the greed of the few —
but wait, I hear a wakeup call:
isn’t it our greed, too?
–Diane Walker is a poet living in Washington.
By Richard Walker
the door is
that must be
this is what
must be thinking
the bathroom door
in our house
why do we
except for privacy
we close doors
pull down shades
and build fences
around our homes
all this makes
sense to me
the difference between
adult and child
barriers provide protection
so we are building
a fence along our
border with Mexico
and Arizona passed a law
a barrier made of words
to punish those
who crossed that line
three days after
we began spilling oil
into a gulf not ours
–Richard B. Walker is an elementary school teacher. We lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two sons. He posts his poems on his blog, Sadly Waiting for Recess at http://sadlywaiting.blogspot.com/.
by Rosemary Wallace
greedy you gorge
tearing our heart’s main artery
longing for more
what your devil swore
was your’s for the taking
but the paradox is
what you take cannot give
the milk and mystery that sustain you
your stomach growls
as your heal grounds small
her whispers of love that bore you
Politicians you chose
placed high as gargoyles
protecting you as you plunder
their souls they sold
and know more than we’re told
of what’s coming across our borders
Not of men
older than sin
you’re darker than mere destruction
gold not your goal
for all your toil
but Earth’s complete
–Rosemary Wallace lives on the Canadian west coast tending dogs, crows and other people’s gardens.
by Brenda Warren
spinning sludge inside the sea
while ibis, and brown pelicans
darken with oily debris.
Humans pillage and they plunder,
lifestyles oil their greed.
They rip their mother asunder,
then express distress as she bleeds.
–Brenda Warren is a teacher and poet who lives, loves, and writes in Montana. Look for Warren’s work in the fall issue of The Prose Poem Project, and on her blog, Beyond the Bozone.
by Bill Ward
In my dream the ocean
is black, thick as
paint and sluggish
as clotting blood.
My wife’s face breaks
the surface, mouth open
in a choked scream;
next to her my son appears,
coated eyes opaque as blisters;
then my dog, uncomprehending,
his fur tangled in tarry clumps;
my long-dead parents rise up,
their silver hair slicked back
by a crude brilliantine;
and my unborn grandchildren—
babies greased in shades
of blue-green and wet black.
of generations past and
to come, thousands,
tens of thousands
stretching to the horizon,
inculpatory spirits snared
in the viscous sea.
In the smoke-filled sky
avocet and osprey hover,
dive and are devoured.
And from deep in the earth,
from beneath the base
of oceanic mountains,
I hear the keening wail
of a dying planet.
–Bill Ward is a retired psychologist. His work has been published or accepted for publication in Avocet: A Journal of Nature Poems, The Moon:The Publication for Writing & Art, Hazard Cat, 50 to 1, Spot Literary Magazine, Breath and Shadow, and Sounds of the Night. He received a commendation for a work of fiction in the Southwest Writers’ Association 2010 Writing Contest.
By Gregg Weatherby
thick sweet crude rushed into the sea
deep water clouded gas volatile
aromatics and the air
flows off the gulf
breezes cool the shimmering heat
waves wash tar
along the white sand beaches
red muck on the tides the sea grass
the coastal marshes
we believe stiffly in the wind
yet turn our backs to it
oil soaked seagull pecks at the slick-
stained hull of a cleanup boat
brown pelican coasts
into the onshore breeze
— Gregg Weatherby is an itinerant poet and scholar currently living and teaching in upstate NY. He has published two chapbooks: Under Orion (Pudding House) and Bone Island (Finishing Line).
by Richard Webber
The sea bled in a rainbow black
Pissing to the surface a breach of
Her sacred bowels.
Here a rape, forced penetration
And stabbed deep by a probing shaft.
To steal from the belly of her
Not for need but greed, the internal blood.
When they came, there was no shame
Just a phallic tool in cold steel
Now the plume grows.
A young duck waddles to the marsh
Too young to know the demon in wait
Until it’s feathers turn black
Tarred for the right to be innocent
Standing confused as yesterday was
Pristine as the day before it.
Now the ebbing tide brought a darkness
To the reeds and brine
A stillness ensued one accompanying death
And no fish broke water.
The plume grew spewing from the depths
While the pirates tried to cover their sins
As rhetoric escaped in volumes
But the need echoed the cause as it
Was explained to us.
In simple fact our addiction to a need
Leaves restless thoughts churning
What will we do?
What can we do?
Simple…. embrace the sun, wind , and sea
Richard Webber, a carpenter and writer of life’s events . Writing poetry, short stories, and lyrics. He writes in several genres, painting pictures with words. Homes of poets and writers has published some of his work. His poem By Candle And Match was published in “ The Hudson View” Presently he is working on a book of poetry to publish in the fall. Ironically, until recently, he competed in arm wrestling. A paradox of sorts. He is very in tune with nature.
By Ryan Weberling
lost in sea or air, who knows.
The sun and then the moon are altars
of light and stone.
A voice in the alley said to speak
the names of the creeks:
sewage, soda, ocean spray.
Move into the flow, it said,
press salt upon your forehead,
upon your wounds in the surf.
What if we uncovered the waterways
beneath highways, watersheds in our nuclei,
if we used our new names to remember the old,
or became the taste of iron?
If the images have sunk beyond recovery,
what new waves will remember the history
of ferns and dinos?
We can sing and drive
home facts and morals,
from delta to Dakotas.
Mississippi and Great Lakes
will part our greasy hair.
By Laura Grace Weldon
of my grandparents’ carved bed
and your sleeping body calm me
though my breath is still caught
like those in the ocean’s clogged room.
Tipping my head, mouth open
any organism seeking air,
I think of plankton and krill
swirling on poisonous currents.
Of resolute creatures with ancestral maps
steering to gulf water, eyes keeping watch
long after their hearts stop.
When breath is scarce, the body
concentrates fiercely. I inhale and exhale
the deep waters of that horizon.
I hear the waves preach
do unto the whole world
as you would have
the whole world do unto you.
Bless you bless you bless you
I murmur, tipping forward to rock
as the crazy do and those
mad for God and those who lull tiny babies.
I breathe in oily darkness
hoping this time to exhale light.
— Laura Grace Weldon is the author of Free Range Learning (Hohm Press, 2010). Her work has recently been published in Christian Science Monitor, The Shine Journal, Atlanta Review, Halfway Down the Stairs, Mannequin Envy, flashquake and Dirty Napkin. Connect with her at http://www.lauragraceweldon.com
All Life – All Living
by Richard Wells
All life has voice and sings of itself
A great and resounding song of itself
The choir of life sings “Life!”
Wind and the River
Rain and the Sun
And are alive!
The Flowers and the Clover and the Dirt
And are alive!
Even the Rocks have voice
Sing songs so low and down
Deep in a rumble
And close to the ground
And are alive!
And the Sky has a voice
And the Clouds sing cloud
And are alive!
The Child and the Man
The Woman and the Child
The two footed
And are Alive!
And the Dust
And the Bones
In the grave
Have a voice
Has a voice
A whisper and a rattle of life
Takes life, gives life
All life has voice and sings of itself
A great and resounding song of itself
The Choir of Life
–Richard Wells is a community organizer and poet, in Seattle, WA. He and Reggie have been married over 30 years.
to organisms storing dispersant indefinitely in your soft tissue
in my shock
in my horrified outrage
I scream a banshee pain
like a deluded scottish queen
(out out damned spot)
wringing my unclean hands
oblivious to the thick blood
cloying the surface
of this oil slick
–Angie Werren writes poetry in a small house in Ohio. She is just a woman, asking questions.
BALLAD OF THE VANISHING MARSH
by Gail White
Remember when you buy BP
and hear it softly seethe,
the oil that runs your SUV
is hard for fish to breathe.
It weights the brown anhinga’s wings
and blinds the turtle’s eyes,
and while the earth’s machinery sings
the living water dies.
The oysters build their quiet cave
among the cypress roots.
The fishermen who seek them have
no golden parachutes.
When all the catch that fills the nets
is brought to harbor dead,
how can the fishers pay their debts
or keep their children fed?
In governments where parties meet,
is there no compromise?
Can Boston not have winter heat
unless Biloxi dies?
Restore the marshes where the shy
sea creatures breed and live,
or take the wells that petrify
more riches than they give.
–Gail White has lived all her life on the Gulf Coast, from Florida to Louisiana. She is a poet in the New Formalist movement. Her latest book is Easy Marks from WordTech Press. (Also see www.gailwhite.org).
And It’s On Our Hands, Too
By Renia White
anything somewhat clear
and promising cleansing –
a splash on my face
or a lullaby for new burns.
Now, I take heed
not to close eyes too tight,
not to let throats run dry.
Swallow and swallow.
sting and sting
‘cause we forgot
to wipe our shoes
at the shore of humanity.
And now, the poster child for purity
is marred and rocking
upon her mother’s knee.
Don’t you know what it means
when even the water
chokes out life
and leaves its stains?
It means that hope was wading.
Tell me, does it breathe?
– Renia White is a student and closet superhero who is beginning her second year at Howard University. She speaks for the feelings of words on her tongue and writes in order to save her life. Occasionally, she makes something less than tragic. Usually, she just writes at ledasoul.tumblr.com.
By Anne Whitehouse
in the corner of my computer screen;
all day I kept coming back to it:
the web cam a mile underwater
recording clouds and plumes of filth
expelled like an explosive diarrhea
from the bowels of the earth,
polluting the soft, blue-green waters
and pure white sands
of the warm, salt sea,
its rich, teeming, varied life—
dolphins playing at dawn,
stealthy, sinuous sharks,
fish the colors of the rainbow,
vibrant corals and seaweeds,
mollusks and crustaceans,
the most magnificent birds
and intricate shells—
fouled and mired in the earth’s shit.
The very substance of our greed
come back to contaminate the world,
until the last fires of internal combustion
— Poet, fiction writer, journalist, and critic Anne Whitehouse’s books
include poetry collections The Surveyor’s Hand, Blessings and Curses, Bear
in Mind and Fall Love (novel). Her second novel, Rosalind’s Ring, is set
in her native Birmingham. She lives in New York City.
by H.D. Whatley
Like it was covered in blood.
I saw the picture of the brown pelican bird
All soaked in fresh crude oil.
The President donned a new pair of boots
While Spike Lee told him to Go Off.
Mr. Hayward kept saying all the wrong things
So much so that the Governor got angry.
Lots of people boycotted BP
While they tried to stop the oil flowing.
The shrimpers were all losing their shirts
And the tourists stopped swimming at the beach.
Nature had been raped by an offshore well
The Crescent City will never be the same
Since Katrina cleansed the Big Easy of its people
And the dirty oil disaster did its deadly deed.
by Buff Whitman-Bradley
Its body covered with toxic sludge
Its white eye floating in the tarry blackness
Like a nebula thousands of light years away
It is so completely still we cannot tell at first
If it is alive or dead if it is a real pelican or a sculpture —
An artist’s depiction of environmental catastrophe
A warning of what could happen if we pay no heed
But then the eye blinks and instantly
The full horror of what is occurring
Punches us in the gut slams us to the ground
The eye blinks and grief robs us of breath
The eye blinks to say here is a life that has
Given up the struggle to free itself from the viscous oil
And is quietly waiting to die the eye blinks
And the encroaching sludge rises all around us
–Buff Whitman-Bradley has written two books of poetry, b. eagle, poet and The Honey Philosophies. He is co-producer/director of the death-row documentary Outside In, and co-editor of the forthcoming book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. He is also an environmental justice activist with Mobilization for Climate Justice/West. He lives with his wife Cynthia in northern California.
who were we before the earth shook?
by Mandoline Whittlesey
a small northern island
stops all skies
circles of silence
the trembling core
of impassioned faith
in the fast crowd,
against the loud
backdrop (this world)
they embody the dance
of hair rising
quick flock around
a mountain sliver
back to the ocean
who we were
before the slide
is of no consequence
to be so moved
the earth is seeing
something we’re not
it must be beautiful
Mandoline Whittlesey is a poet, performer and somatic researcher currently living in Paris, France. Winner of the 2002 Emma Howell Memorial Poetry Award, her poetry has appeared in Thin Air Magazine and EM Literary. She writes and teaches embodied writing as well as somatic movement education workshops, sharing her passion for the articulate, engaged and expressive nature of the human body and its relationships to the world.
Schematic of All Things
by Philip Scott Wikel
I think myself not superior,
and at the same time,
I think of the things I do as not greater,
of less apparent impact.
I will not shine in your eyes erudition
on the subject
but instead give you a dim view.
And it’s the you of this that must be figured,
and I’ll do the same and am doing the same.
because the definitions are that grey;
the sea joins the sky on a day heavy with fog,
that we must do so together.
The sun in myself on you and the apparent them,
What first they are not,
what you are not,
and then what I most certainly am;
the I being you as you become the eye in this and not superior,
and at the same time
And then as a part of the greater,
or the higher,
reaching down to perform the lesser,
or less apparent,
the trivial task that strikes like flint,
the power fed feeds.
or now you,
won’t speak in specifics.
and finally we,
will not give logistics or diagramatic signs of the specific.
Specificity dims the impact of the metaphor,
(the intellectuospiritual machine)
in which to plug the act,
or the feeling,
and just push “play.”
–Philip Wikel is the publisher of SALT magazine, a regional ocean sports magazine in Southern California. You can learn more at http://philipscottwikel.wordpress.com.
The Dancing Bones of the Sea
by Dwain Wilder
While the moon practices the sea,
The beach and the bones of the sea,
The beach grinds its bones by the moon of the sea,
Dancing the dance of the bones of the sea.
When the moon practices the sea,
Combing the bones of the sea,
Quick is the light of the moon on the sea,
A figure for the dance of the bones in the sea.
When the sea practices the bones,
While sea is sloughing its bones,
Patient are the beach’s gestures of bones,
Enduring the sea for the dance of the bones.
While the sea practices the bones,
And the sea moon known by its bones,
The beach may be quiet from milling its bones,
A figure for sea, and the dance of its bones.
When the sea bones practice the dance,
And black the moon, distant in dance,
Dark are the sea bones, dark is their dance,
Trusting the moon, the sea and their dance.
While the sea bones practice the dance,
Tossed by the sea in the dance,
The beach bears away the bones in the dance,
A figure for darkness, for the sake of the sea,
and for the sake of the sea bones’ dance.
Dwain, a native of a small town outside Dallas, moved to Rochester, NY in 1970, and now lives with his wife and niece, and dogs, in a quaint, untidy farmhouse. He makes his livelihood as a luthier (a builder of stringed musical instruments). Dwain’s Appalachian dulcimers are held in high regard, both here and abroad. Dwain also teaches dulcimer building classes at the Northeast Dulcimer Symposium, in Blue Mountain Lake, in the Adirondacks, as well as in his studio.
Dwain also writes poetry, and essays on Zen. He has published poems in various small poetry periodicals and collections, but not extensively — due to having no taste for rejection slips and a lack of industry.
By Gwen Wille
horrible arrangement in history, but now slick,
tricky to name for all the brown on blue,
ever-moved, and blood rush summoned.
Woken, we’ll wade through the too hot
morning, breathe mouthfuls of damp, thick
as dirty bread. Gristly. It’s enough
to harden the bones of us, bristle
the bridle clasped tight to our lips. Why
not pay more by the wave-load? And land
here, once worth a dime, is yet the resting
place for the gossip of coastal north, inner
green, estuary. We are this: overdone,
too road-stoned to still our limbs, and loud.
Life will return the sound. Then it will sound
–Gwen Wille lives and works in West Chester, PA. She studied writing at the University of New Mexico. Her work has appeared in the second Best of Philadelphia Stories Anthology, Divine Dirt Quarterly, Willows Wept Review, and Crow Toes Quarterly, and is forthcoming in Writers’ Bloc. A lifelong environmentalist, she has always had a strong affinity for the ocean.
by Mai’a Williams
with their fat and muscle
we will squeeze their blood from the water
and slowly dehydrate their bodies for our thirst
we could film it and let the rich be entertained
as their organs become deserts
today a man who used to fish for dinner
squeezes black gold from rocks for a living
the summer’s heat burns his soles
tar sticks to his toes
the bosses tell him to believe and vote
and he too will earn a wage to die for
at night he closes his windows
refuses to inhale another dream
a fish closes its eyes and never opens them
no one is fiddling while fires tear apart the city
we sing along with the t.v. theme song
as the credits roll by
the poor and the rich dissipate into dust and smoke
leaving nothing for the coming fires to feed on
all that is left is him and me
staring where the sky used to be
touching the sun
–Mai’a Williams who should have been named Nikki’ according to the poet, Nikki Giovanni, is a visionary healer and media maker. She has lived and worked in the Middle East, southern Mexico and east Africa with refugee and displaced women under the threat of violence, also she has organized and accompanied communities and persons within the US/Canadian urban landscape, engaging in issues including: race, working poor, sex work, prisons, drug addiction, police brutality, and queer rights. Living in Cairo, Egypt, she is a free lance writer, poet, journalist, zinester, photographer, multi-media performer, and outlaw midwife.
She has dedicated her body and life to stopping by any means necessary and possible the violence (whether it be state, military, communitarian, medical, domestic, etc.) that threatens our survival on this earth and to co-creating with you revolutionary, liberatory communities.
By Karen S. Williams
who think they are.
They are only exhausted who no longer
have a reason to strive and to dream and hope.
What to the idea that we live best in the dark? Hunkered under a coating of
slime? The sun of our lives blocked or disappearing? As if smothered by
invisible algae bloom? And how the algae blossoms a foul run-off, a dank sewage
of our days. It washes, a grim reaper, into streams of consciousness, hacks the
six arms, our radii of being. Hack! We can’t think or speak or read anymore.
Hack! Our faith plummets, bottoms like rusting anchors.
In darkness, we narrow, lose our vision, become Angler prey, Sperms pitted with
battle scars, gouged by a great Architeuthis, bitten, itinerant through olive
waves, an up-welling of oil and loss, of negative ions, a marine Lazarus, rot
entombed, a brittle sea star yet to emerge from being wrapped and bleeding.
Are we destined to crowd an oily and futile coast? Snatched from sun-spangled
waters? Pressed and stifled against its sand grains? Ability to regenerate, for
a time, stunted? The human body can go three weeks without food, three days
without water, three minutes without oxygen. But how long can it fare without
light? As if lightlessness is what we really want; for that which extends from
within us in fine radii to become nub and wither; as if we ask for oxygen to be
taken away; our nose and knowing plugged with elfin wood: how we were ignored
yesterday, or how in yet another meeting something legged and feral climbed over
us and nipped and taunted, poked with red pincers. It dares us to belly-up. But
I dare us not to belly-up.
Old and past nutrients suffocate; render us vulnerable to one-cells overfeeding,
tip us powerless into poisonous blooms; life weighed down with skeletons of
rockfish, slicks of Gulf crude, all that makes us decompose.
— Karen S. Williams, a Pushcart Prize nominee, became enraptured by the sea, its
creatures, and marine conservation as a little girl watching the Underwater
World of Jacques Cousteau on television. Marine Life: A World in Poems is her
second collection of poems. Her debut collection, Elegy for a Scarred Shoulder,
was a 2009 Michigan Notable Books nominee. A 2009 Poets and Writer’s Magazine
Debut Poet, and Cave Canem Fellow, her poetry, essays and fiction have been
by Malcolm Willison
no one but the locals seems to know
just what to do, way past
the first engorged hours
after which the Gulf’s fecundity has filled
with wretched excess
fruitless to save its well-slimed breeds
one after the other unable to come clean
while engineers and corporate officers
try to stanch the ever-rising, raging flow
with wooly words, old trash
and futile media booms.
–Malcolm Willison has been living in New Orleans since 2003, continuing to write poetry, maybe even more, especially under the influence of local jazz . He fled Katrina with everyone else, and returned two months later from his long-term place in upstate New York to find that poetry had not only survived the catastrophe, but was thriving.
by Matt Wimberley
I can see my pores, oily
rippled wrinkles, forming black holes
to oblivion on my face, ugly now.
I was once your conquistador, floating in siesta
and bravery. The salt of my skin
a potpourri along your citrus neck, and my wavy
fingertips a giggle on your shores. Despite this
romance, I know
our affair has caused problems before, love.
Remember my ex, Katrina? African Queen of rage,
how she pushed me aside to show you her fury,
gave you a tongue lashing, even with
her face smeared in black
make-up clouds of sadness and anger.
I remember her crying, those black ropes
streaming along her cheeks. But we made it
through that, didn’t we?
Now, despair seems to creep from
my soul up through my skin.
I know I should keep my distance,
but a nautical mile never equated
in my brain, so I roll closer to your
lips, my own bruised and blackberried
though I doubt they taste half as sweet-
or sweet at all. Full of fear
you tremble but can’t run. For a month I’ve
been coming for you, for a month all ugly.
Hear me when I say, this is not summer love.
But what can we do?
-Matt Wimberley is a Senior at North Carolina State University. He grew up along the Blue Ridge Mountains, enjoys his two dogs, being outside and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. His friends are his heroes.
by Laura Winton
Brown color pelicans with wings heavy,
Rendering, these chickens won’t come home to roost.
Imagine the world remember the one we
Thought we would inhabit, technological wonders and cures
Instead of disasters and wars, drugs to calm our fears, sedate our troubles.
Sticky wings won’t fly
Home to a coast inhospitable.
Entwined extracted electric flashes
To be subdued, extinguished. We believe in
Resurrection miracles it will all be
Left to someone faraway and faceless
Empty like a pledge a promise
Unfulfilled, now painted black,
Earth in Critical Condition After Stabbing
By Liza Wolff-Francis
by U. S. Coast Guard, who wanted to book him
Class B felony: aggravated battery and assault.
Vicious attack by stabbing
Victim: Earth, age 4.5 billion
Location: Gulf of Mexico zone, Atlantic Ocean
British Petroleum, a.k.a. B.P.,
was found on April 20, 2010 at scene of crime,
Deepwater Horizon Rig,
blood on clothes and arms,
shirt slightly singed from an explosion.
Charges have yet to be pressed.
Coast Guard called to explosion
early Tuesday morning after a report of a stabbing
and subsequent fire. According to witnesses,
B.P. and Earth had been fighting in the backyard.
One witness said he saw B.P. hit
and stab victim with a broken drill pipe.
Pipe remains lodged in victim’s chest. Blood everywhere.
Officers located a bloody oil rig in the vicinity
Witnesses said the attacker had recently moved
to the area. They identified B.P.
as attacker and perpetrator of the crime.
Emergency medical services personnel reported
the victim had deep puncture wounds
in her chest that may be fatal,
though fatality has yet to be determined.
They said she also had welts, as if she had been beaten.
Scars and more recent lacerations found on the victim
show this is not a first time offense.
Multiple restraining orders have been filed on
assailants with similar records as B.P.
According to the report, Earth was responding minimally
to medical intervention to stop bleeding.
The suspect, B.P., has paid for expenses related to the crime
but has done little to cooperate with further
investigation and has issued no apology.
Criminal charges are still pending. Earth
continues to hemorrhage and remains in critical condition.
–Liza Wolff-Francis is a poet and writer living in Albuquerque, NM. She is an M.F.A. student of Creative Writing at Goddard College and her work has been published in Border Senses, Pitkin Review, The Albuquerque Almanac, and Earthships anthology.
By Ernie Wormwood
instructing teens who couldn’t go to school
for health reasons, so Leslie and I
journeyed through English , History, and,
horror of horrors, Chemistry, which I knew
On the web I found Chemistry lessons to perform
at home and one was entitled Oil Spill. We obtained
a large and deep clear container, an old aquarium as I
recall, to hold the water, to be our ocean. Then we
mixed cocoa powder with vegetable oil. We considered
drinking beer and doing the Exxon Valdez, it was
B.B.P. (before British Petroleum). But we were
honorable and knew what was right in our Home School.
You always think you have known tragedy and then
a greater tragedy occurs.
So in Leslie’s kitchen, we spilled the oil and
watched it. We tried to clean it with Q Tips,
cotton balls, scoops, and detergent. We watched
it form into black balls and sink to the bottom.
Her mother came in and screamed when she saw
you could never clean it up.
We had no ducks, no geese, no perch, no whales, no heron,
no porpoises, no sharks, no lobsters, no seagulls, no oysters,
no shrimp, but we saw the oil globs sink and knew
it was forever. Notice I’ve said nothing about humans except
that I was there with Leslie and her mother.
Do you think it’s true that humans really have the benefit of intellect?
–Ernie Wormood, of Leonardtown, Maryland is a poet and Mother who practices Transformative Mediation.
On the Waterfront… Redux
by Iolanthe “Lannie” Woulff
I must go down to the sea again…
tho’ it ain’t been clean since Lord knows when,
probably something like 1610…
Water, water everywhere…
What a wretched stink!
That brown stuff foaming over there,
it can’t be what I think?!
All I need is a sailing ship…
(Tied up fast in some rat-hole slip.)
And maybe a star to steer her by…
(Forget it, the smog obscures the sky.)
over the reeking sludge.
The thick hydrilla’s fouled the props,
the rudder cannot budge…
Anchors aweigh, my jolly boys…
The Navy’s ditchin’ some surplus toys!
Roll out the bombs and T.N.T.,
advise those skiers not to ski.
Three li’l fishies
and a Momma fishie too…
belly-up, go floating by,
An oddly cobalt hue.
On a day like today…
folks stroll the beach away,
dodging used hypos
in the sand.
If everybody had an ocean
across the U.S.A…
I’ve got a pessimistic notion
they’d pollute ‘em right away…
Row, row, row your boat…
Oops, the oars dissolved.
Creeps in Congress want your vote,
but not to get involved.
By the sea, by the sea…
By the poisonous sea,
if we’re dim, take a swim,
Oh, how sorry we’ll be!
I’ll catch typhus and V.D.,
You’ll get hepatitis C,
and amoebas too, you’ll see.
The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea
in a beautiful pea-green boat…
Got sucked ‘neath the bow of the EXXON GLEE,
and that was all she wrote.
And the feeling is queasy.
Fish are rotting,
and they smell to the sky…
That Old Man River…
As brown as liver,
caught fire and burned ten square miles to a sliver.
And Old Man River
keeps right on smokin’ along.
We humans set sail in a sieve one day,
and we trashed Ma Nature’s rules.
We’re sinking, old buddies, I’m sad to say.
The ultimate Ship of Fools…
“Written some time ago after a depressing visit to the beach, which was strewn with an extraordinary assortment of rubbish. I started thinking about every poem, song, ditty etc. which had to do with the water, and this was the somewhat pessimistic result.”
–Iolanthe “Lannie” Woulff was born a boy in New York City. She grew up on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas, attended high school in Washington, D.C., and graduated with a degree in English from Princeton in 1973. Twenty-five years later she began the complex process of gender transition. Now happily married to wife Joleene, since 1987 Lannie has made her home in Palm Springs, CA.
A lover of the natural environment, she writes ironic verse aimed at those who would constantly despoil it.
Her debut novel, SHE’S MY DAD, was published in November 2009.
By Annie Wyndham
Gaia screams out oily plumes
that bleed into life waters
Feed the car. It’s very important to
keep feeding the car.
When the fishes are gone,
the blackened waters coating all,
a well-fed car can take you away …
assuming you could leave,
which of course, you can’t.
Pray for Mother Earth
and don’t forget …
to feed the car.
–Annie Wyndham is a writer living in Trois-Rivières, Québec. http://ameriquebeckian.blogspot.com
by Caroline Young
Sea, no casement
smeared black inky
shelves an ocean under-
miner of sea eyes
a million minds rapt
in flume of fingers
fault lines flicker
as sea grasses
steeped in rage
a sleep our daily
prayers break slick
press to oily
skin in consequence;
hands rinse bird
bellies lined in
her a little
every day she surrenders
what we prey
our ears still water’s
eye black surface
broken by hands
Caroline Young lives in Athens, Georgia where she is a student in the UGA Creative Writing PhD program.
By Jessica Young
to our plumes of oil, coursing
under water. I cannot stop looking
at images of them because they
remind me of my second
grade science project. A glass
bottle filled half with blue-dyed water,
half with olive oil, tilt it, tilt it,
and its modest ocean
rocks at a sweet, slow pace,
its olive-colored sky in concert, a little
plastic boat bobbing up, down,
on the threshold, never
slipping under. Mesmerizing—
its containment, silent through the glass
wall. I rocked it into violent
waves, then put it down,
then walked away.
–Jessica Young’s chapbook “Only as a Body” won the 2010 Bateau Boom Prize. She holds a Zell Fellowship, two Hopwoods, and has been nominated for a Pushcart. Her poetry is in Versal, 350 Poems, and elsewhere.
by Alan Zhukovski
Has caught me unprepared
Climbing the rock of electricity
Through the waterfall of daily troubles
In my sleep
I could see
The primordial night
Filling the lungs of my soul
Wandering through space
I saw the oil spill
Its face was moving
Licking the skin of the gulf
Its poisonous tongue
Was kissing the cozy carpet
The venomous predator
Was biting the water
The features were ugly
The eyes of evil
Destroying the charm
The demon of oil
Has come to devour the beauty
The dragon was born
To the gusher
Let’s fight him
The limbs and the torso
Prevent their growth
No more spills of indifference…
–Alan Zhukovski writes poetry and prose in English, Ukrainian and Russian. Although he is of Polish and Ukrainian origin, he currently resides in Moscow and studies at Moscow State University. He has published three articles about English and American poetry: Structure, General Significance and Genre Specificity of Synesthesia in Shakespeare’s Comedy (based on the analysis of “Twelfth Night, Or What You Will”(2008), Inner Space in the Works of Edgar Allan Poe (2009) and Metaphorical Understanding of the Body in the Poetry of Jim Morrison(2010).