Sunday, February 2, 2020

Oh Stars

Oh Stars

Faint sunshine
speckles the frosted
piles of slag
like colonnades of crumbling
carbon dust that line
the missing mile.
The great steel drag,
the rusting teeth and feral smile
have carved the lime
we delvers bring
to all our latter works
of cancelled spring.

The bites of life
we take regurgitate
some foolish tinsel'd
fail of poisoned joy
while in the east the
crescent shrinks to silver
sparks, night hangs the
spinning seethe of stars
our blind eyes block;
our smallness and our deathtoys mocked
by a brooding hatch of dark
and limitless shock.

Oh stars--gods'
eyes that laser out 
our fool's disguise;
what an underworld we make to hide our lies.
What curses can you break to turn us wise
when you come laughing 
on the wail of a newborn wind
so the wide green world can fill its graves
and breathe again?

~February 2020 

posted for  A Skylover's Word List by Kerry O'Connor
and for earthweal's 

The images above are ©AP/Charlie Riedel, from this article: 

"The chalky hills were a kind of town gathering point. The people of Picher, Oklahoma regularly picnicked there and rode bikes. Sometimes they carted the dust away and mixed it with cement to fill their driveways. Some parents added it to their children’s sand boxes. When a breeze picked up, it whipped clouds of the fine sediment through the air....For almost a century, town residents had no idea the dust was poison...
Around the turn of the 20th century, miners discovered Picher’s subsurface stores of lead and zinc. As America entered World War I, demand soared for lead to make ammunition, and Picher became one of the biggest hubs in the region’s tri-state mining district, an area between southeast Kansas to southwest Missouri. Roughly 75 percent of the American bullets and bombshells used in the two World Wars were made from this area’s metals; half came from Picher alone. At its height in the 1920s — when the town’s population reached about 19,000—227 mills were processing 10 million pounds of ore per day.
Miners carved into the earth underneath Picher. The lead and zinc ore they hauled out had to be separated from the limestone and dolomite rock that surrounded it. And the remains were piled into chat mountains around town, some 300 feet high. By the time mining ceased in the late 1960s, there were 30 piles totaling 178 million tons. The local school was built in the shadow of the hills, and the high school track team trained on them.... 2011, the federal government sold the massively toxic waste region, known as the Tar Creek Superfund site, back to the Quapaw Indian tribe, which had been forcibly removed from their ancestral Arkansas home and relocated to northeast Oklahoma in 1818. In 2017, the EPA granted the Quapaw $4.9 million in cleanup assistance..."

Picher is an uninhabited ghost town today. Millions have been spent to clean it up, but only time and the planet itself may have the power to do that.


  1. Oh my goodness, Joy, so many amazing images - I love the spinning seethe of stars, and, especially, your closing stanza. I hope the stars can break the curse and come in on that newborn wind and green the earth up again. We have a lot of dead earth up in the tarsands of the north. Total deadzone.

  2. After not having seen sunshine in MI for a couple of weeks when we finally did see some I was on the porch wondering what the sun will see on earth just before it explodes. Will there even be a human vestige left to be crushed? Probably not, we seem to have fully embraced a suicide pact.

  3. Life will return to such ghastly places as this -- has, I'm sure, in some ghostly way, like lichen spreading across the rust. Such a harrowing place, and the endnote grounds it in a dreadful history, a local industry of gouging the earth providing the munitions of two world wars. The speaker here has that omniscience we used to ascribe to a Creator or Devil, become the post-industrial Eye of Sauron, astonished at the wreckage It sees. These Superfund sites will be centuries in recovering, leaving the Eye to ask, "what curses can you break to turn us wise." Renewal comes here at such prior cost. Makes me think of abandoning a dead Earth to try to colonize a deader Mars. Lorca knew such night mares. Great response to the earthweal prompt, Hedge.

  4. Dearie, I am going to have to try to comment quickly, cos your blog keeps vanishing on me, leaving just the background. Anyhoo, Picher's story has fascinated me for a long time. It is so tragic. You've portrayed the whole ugly situation in your usual deft way. I would say more, but I don't want to have to start over again. :-(

  5. here is an excellent vid on Picher:

  6. The images you paint here makes me think of all the death we have unearthed and how much damage we cause to ourselves. I read the story the other day of one EPA guy (cannot remember his name) once managed to convince Reagan that lead is bad (in gasoline) by arguing about the national cost (in terms of GDP) would be from the lower average IQ that results from gasoline poisoning.

  7. This is quite moving and made me feel a bit sick. Your poetry is, as usual, phenomenal.

  8. Wow! I am quite speechless after this read. I learnt something today, so sadly another tale of woe - how expendable everything is in the wake of war. You really have channeled the tragedy in your poem - the narrative tone is at once cynical and poignant. Thank you for including words from my Skylover list - I am gratified that they are a part of this poem.

    1. The thanks belong to you, Kerry, and your words that sparked the poem.

  9. Replies
    1. Victory!!!Glad removing the list of ten thousand tags worked!

  10. As I read your note on Picher, OK, am reminder of the Grassy Narrow Reserve, in northern Ontario, where two pulp and paper companies left a clean lake, in the 1960s, a mercury filled disaster zone, which Canadian courts have ruled that the pulp and paper companies have to pay for the environment clean-up of the land and lake. Sadly, the local indigenous community is poisoned, every time, they eat local game that they have hunted.

    1. Yes, sounds like exactly the same thing.Thanks for reading.

  11. Such a heavy price for divesting life of grace and wisdom! In spite of all this we still yearn for the 'wide green world'. The closing lines remind me of Greta.

  12. A powerful, and paradoxically beautiful write.

    The mood of this poem exactly matches what my own is of late. :(


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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