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.
Georgia Pearle was born and raised in the Gulf South. An alumna of Smith College, she has been a coordinator of the VIDA Count, the digital editor for Gulf Coast, and the recipient of the Inprint Marion Barthelme Prize in Creative Writing. Her poems have appeared in Kenyon Review Online, Crab Creek Review, and Women’s Studies Quarterly, among others. She holds a CLASS Dissertation Completion Fellowship at the University of Houston, where she is a doctoral candidate in creative writing and literature. She is at work on a collection of poems as well as a memoir.