Killing a Gulf
As if a nuclear bomb for tiny shell fish
had exploded, the oil spills of the late 80's
devastated the Coquina population
on the Texas coast.
They were verdent as grains of sand.
We used to camp along the Padre Island
National Sea Shore at least once a month.
Even in July
wind from the Gulf would cool us down.
We'd sleep in the afternoon,
catch fish mornings and evenings,
gather tiny pastel Coquina, make a stew
on our white gas-burning Coleman,
make love all night in a tent,
listen to surf pound,
scare ourselves looking at the Milky Way,
Scorpio diving at the night horizon,
moonlight on water,
mosquito coils burning,
or a fire to keep away swarms.
Other people said everything tasted
like sand, but we chilled white wine
and dined on gourmet fresh
pompano, tuna, redfish, trout,
oranges, rice, mangos,
baked potatoes, salad from the cooler.
Our white coyote sheppard, Palamina,
slept in a hole in the sand
under a blue Dodge Dart.
Once a storm blew up so fast
we tore down camp naked and howling
in wind and rain, just making it out
before the beach submerged.
That was the time Palamina ate the
front seat of the car, waiting for us to come out
of a restaurant. We'd parked in the shade,
but she missed us, or maybe she didn't like
the smell of rotting bait, or the round nets
Jay twirled and tossed into the surf —
a flick of the wrist, a swirl.
I took the "D" off the name plate
of the car making it the "ART" car.
We sold it for more than we paid for it
eventually and stopped going to the Texas
Coast regularly, but sweet wind and
the soft warm bath of Gulf waters, campfires,
good company and fresh fish cooked outdoors
clang against the edges of my brain
as we brace for one of the largest hurricanes
in history, right after one of the worst hurricanes
in history hit New Orleans three weeks ago.
George Bush wanted to make a bombing range
out of Padre Island, and turn the National Sea Shore
into an oil field. Red Fish are nearly extinct.
Oil and gas pipelines sit on top of the sand
around Port Aransas and leak all the time.
In Brazoria County they store toxic chemicals
in salt caves underground because they are a natural
barrier — do caves have lids?
Don't light a match along the Texas coast
Once our son hooked a Tarpaulin on a fly rod
along the jetty in Port Aransas. He ran and ran
to keep up, a sure-footed twelve-year-old,
wasted by a fish, on the best day of his
The chemical plants in Freeport are between the
seawall and the Gulf. Most of Houston is a flood plane.
The Gulf is drilled and drilled and drilled
like a mouth full of root canals.
The highway from Houston to Galveston
is wall-to-wall oil refineries.
The Mayor of Corpus Christi says they will not
evacuate hospitals, are moving patients
to higher floors.
If my mother was in a hospital in Corpus Christi
I'd be raising hell tonite.
Traffic from the coast creeps north.
The 50-year-old Longhorn Pipeline has been forced
back into use to speed-blast gas from Houston
to El Paso -- passing within arm's length of schools
crossing creek beds that will flood.
It sprouts a leak every 13 months
in the best conditions and explodes at random intervals.
We're in Austin, 180 miles from the coast.
If Rita holds to any part of the projected path
it's going to smash us with torrential rain,
hurricane winds, and flash floods, possibly
like the ones that pushed thirty feet of
water downtown in 1981.
We're on high ground, so even if one of the
dams holding back Hill Country lakes
breaks, we won't flood, but our bank will,
our trees will blow down, our portable buildings are
only likely to hold up and we'll be without
electricity and phones for awhile.
What isn't ok, what breaks my heart tonite
is that a Gulf will die.
Put magenta tracers in the flow --
poison from Lake Ponchatrain, oil from platforms
with broken arms and legs, toxic chemicals,
sewage, every sort of urban junk will fan out --
at the instant the eye passes over
land dumping a flock of parrots, or raining frogs,
but soon enough.
The dolphins that laugh as ferry boats pass
between the mainland and Port Aransas,
the trout, whitefish, even sharks will belly up--
Once, from the National Seashore,
we saw a whale surface and blow --
The beautiful blue crabs that climb ashore
in the moonlight --
All of them will disappear
as if a nuclear bomb went off.
We're about to kill a Gulf,
and hurricane season in this year
of global warming, is still
©copyright, 2005, Susan Bright
Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published one-hundred-and-fifty books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh.
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