Nicole Nicholson: “Gulf Song”


Poets for Living Waters is a new online anthology of writings in response to the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico begun on April 20, 2010, one of the most profound human-made ecological catastrophes in history. This piece by Nicole Nicholson is reprinted by permission of the author. Read more of Nicole’s work at her website Raven’s Wing Poetry .

Gulf Song

There is an artery in the coastline, fingers spread,
bayou beckoning to the sea to come in
and travel up my arm. Gulf trajectories: seagulls
fly overhead, following the fringe of my
   fingertips
inland. The ocean climbs up inside my palm,
reuniting with river at the mouth of my life,
   which is
made out of little veins. Water: it is how
I live, how I came to you as a cloaked land
with veils of trees, wildflowers, and tribes
   traversing
the backs of my hands, up my veins, into
   my breasts
and belly. My womb has seen
millions of red men and women exit,
hug close to earth and feel me breathe,
and call me home.

I have billions, trillions, a galaxy of creatures
living just beneath the whorl of fingerprints.
   Crocodiles
in my teeth, turtles in my jaw,
pelicans and people in my pulse.
At an intersection in my wrist of unoxidized
   blue and bone
there sits an egret, white with sorrow, white with
   the sea foam
that I baptize my forehead with. He is
oil christened, stained with brown, feathers
   slicked down. You birth
dead dinosaur bones from the trenches in
   my knees,
caverns in my colon, light your fires and
   call them
Viet Nam’s children, little tragedies lit
when my eyes grow dark each night.

Candles do not burn in the ocean,
and boats cannot swim in God’s acre.
   There is
a necropolis of expired lives, scaffolding
   and chasses
of iron and bone coughed up and vacant
   on the ocean floor. It will
lie beneath this shroud of oil that burns
   and congeals
within the reach of my fingers. Let the poison
travel up my arm, hope that venom can
   be sucked out
by a kindly mouth and a bittersweet
   tongue. My wrist
is still knitting itself together,
bone halves seeking solace with
   each other
after being shattered apart by a hurricane
   hammer. And there is

no prayer for this, except for the cry in
   your own throat,
except for the children of mine that you wash
   the oil off of
like they were your own babies,
except for the sickness like tar balls resting
in the hollow behind your navel,
except for the fire launched from the
  soft beds
of your own tongues. If you find that prayer,
say it for me. I will need it to survive.

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