“Love Letter to the Gulf Coast Oil Spill” by Heather Bell

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Heather Bell


The photos taken from helicopters are really
quite beautiful: the weird orange waves, the way
it bends back like a spinal cord. It isn’t that I
am not sympathetic to the ocean, but it
touches the tips of birds, taking them from
naked to casket. I have always been attracted

to power in that way: fortressing my house
with brick fences and mines. The abusive
burn victims as boyfriends. Building a garden
all spring, only to maniacally cover it in poison
at the season’s end.

I wonder how the oil sounds when it speaks.
Perhaps quiet as a star. Perhaps sad as a
Wurlitzer. Perhaps it just wants to go home,
moans and cries for its mother. Maybe it is

not what it seems: its dark marigold is
its way of saying don’t leave me because
of who I am. And animals are dying and
the algae has crumbled up in the shape
and color of human blood. I find, within all the
salvage and darkness, that it has fingers.

I touch them lightly like I would
touch the skeleton of a person that I
once loved, frightened and hoping
this one doesn’t belong to me, but
it does.

from Rattle #35, Summer 2011
Pushcart Prize Nominee