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Justin Barisich

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30/30 Poetry Challenge (2015) Creative Writing Poetry Uncategorized

Day 27 – Saying the Same Things Over Again (5 Years Later, a found poem)

By on April 29, 2015
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Global Green USA)

(Photo Credit: Flickr / Global Green USA)


Have you ever watched a fish
upon a boat deck, flip-flapping
and gasping for its last breath?

We are the fish.
And it’s like a little piece of myself
keeps on dying every day.


This is Paradise Lost –
where I used to see an oil rig,
now I see a threat.

Listen carefully: our waters are still
mysterious to even us –
the people born extracting
our dinners from them.
But when you swim in this
long enough, you learn
to trust the bayou, believe
that it’ll always be there for you
and your pilfering.

Like oil, you can’t see shrimp –
you have to tide and predict,
gamble what the minds of sea critters
would find most comfortable.

But now there’s a sea covered in tar mats,
and we was playing in the water,
standing in showers of oil,
forced to leave our masks onshore –
with chemical assaults bombing our backyards.


Our bodies only know
so many ways to tell us
that we’re sick, broken.
The crude doctors know this.

The average lifespan
of people who did clean-up work
on the Exxon Valdez spill
is five years.
All of these people are now dead –
cover-up has to be refined to mean clean-up.


We did not do this to ourselves,
this was done to fuel the nation,
to break us and barren beaches.

And now we see a culture of ethical failure:
black-slathered dog-and-pony show, control
the images, the evidence of harm.
Public perception is all we have left,
but you’ve long since learned to deal
in misinformation, bait with plausible deniability,
cast reasonable doubt upon our shores.

And this is all just the flexing
of a practiced muscle for you:
divide and conquer our communities,
pit them against one another,
let them kill themselves from within.

This is the strategy of claims war –
see how divisive money can be.


They say fishing
is the second oldest profession.
It has survived a lot, but this,
this smothers everything.

And I do not want
to end up
in a museum.

We never wanted your help,
or your destruction,
but we bore the load upon our backs,
with both boom and bust.

You must dig deep
to make us whole, Exxon.
Make us whole, BP.
Make us whole, USA.
Do not forget
who the “w” is
intended for this time.

[NOTE: The vast majority of the lines above are taken verbatim from the award-winning Dirty Energy documentary, which focuses on the fisher folk affected by the 2010 BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico.]


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