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

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


Heather Bell: “It’s not that current events were ever something I wanted to dwell on, but I got to thinking about all the news articles out there with their sad lines and accusatory photos and I just wanted to stop all of it, right there. Is it wrong to see a deadly thing as beautiful? Maybe that was my point all along—poetry is like that: a news article gone awry that you and only you can rewrite to help someone get through it all, stop crying, begin taking his or her child to the grocery store again and just, in general, wake up.” (web)

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