Past the Refinery
Yachts knock in the harbor. Oil tanks
glow full and fat beneath the yellow globes
and smokestacks. Such brights at the refinery,
those sweet lubricants, those rich plumes
that chuff and chug at the sky. Such light
fuel lifted from the residual crude.
Along our shorelines, the spilt sheen’s
been sunk, and the sands are sifted white
enough again. Each night I drive home
past the vats. I want to believe I can’t help
my mouth, how I’m drawn to cup it round
the inbound pipes. In nightmares I swallow,
swallow, until pitch edges my gums, and silt
slops off my teeth. I don’t even pause to breathe.
After the Spill
Down in Bayou La Batre, the oysters
sludged in oil, an irritant too slick
to make pearls. Along the coast, thick
yellow boom formed a barrier and crews
set out with skimmers. Still the oysters
choked. I’m sick of writing all the ways
to choke or not to choke. Enough sputtering
metaphor. Enough bays and likenesses
and poor filtering bivalves. We’ve asked
too much of the oysters, too many times
we’ve said, here, mollusk, you’re stuck
in the muck. What’ll you choose to do?
Have some grit, baby, grit—
and best make it luminous.
My father could not read for pleasure, rather, he read
how sheetrock needed to set square against a new home’s
frame, read the lines of 40 lb test and wrestled with reels,
red snapper and mackerel. My father read the trawlers’
tall masts, picked through the bait fish, jellyfish, cuttlefish.
My father knew how to keep what to keep. With his blood
money we bought me books, navy cardigans and pinafores
and some supposed way out, away from the egrets, gone
from undertow and tide and man-o-war shores, no more
mollusks in sand. Father, with you gone, my hands grew
dyslexic, my air kept too filtered, tempered. Forgive me
this refinement. Forgive me how you paid for it.
Read “Refinery I,” a Letter to America poem by Georgia Pearle appearing in Terrain.org.
Header photo by 12019, courtesy Pixabay.