Bad Chemistry with a Half-Life

sulfuric acid
If I do not mutate
from his radioactive toxins,
I will swim the lake home.


Not a Pretty Picture

Call them the purloiners of good rain,
the ushers of ulcerous sprawl;
call them the Torquemadas
of the Everglades;
call them the South Florida Water
Management District because
the Devil has to have a name.

With Him, we have made a Hades
of this young 15,000-year-old place,
a place spanning a scant 9-million-square acres
that ladles its 40-mile-wide River of Grass
slowly into the cradle of the sea.
Florida Bay now receives
but 1/10th of its historic flow.

Paddle into Satan’s Dead Zone
in the bay through 100 square miles
of moribund sea sponges.
Motor over 100,000 acres
of dying sea grass, manna of sea turtles.
Smell the reek of the dead.

Every accursèd day 600 people
adopt Florida as their home.
In the last 60 years, we’ve lost
¼ of our forests, ⅔rds of our wetlands;
and, at the end of the peninsula,
117 species risk extinction.                 

We count the iniquities:
1,074 miles of canals
   720 miles of levees
   250 primary control devices
    25 locks
    18 major pumping stations

and the wanton creation
of pathogenic levels
of mercury, nitrogen,
phosphorous, and pesticides.
The landscape hungers and thirsts.

                                                                    A rant for Campbell McGrath

Precipitating “The End”

The diminutive soul of a mid-winter
raindrop in the Everglades
can be induced to confess her
pitiful story of a long journey
to the face of your windshield,
to the eye of your telephoto lens.

It was a silvery piccolo voice
such as that willowy woman might
have had, had I stopped to visit
the nonagenarian hippie from New York
zipped into her one-person pup tent
at Long Pine Key.  Instead,
the small wet bead murmured:

By all rights I shouldn’t be here,
this is February, height of the dry season.
This system’s all messed up, all
messed up these days in this region.
I wasn’t due to depart Lake Okeechobee
until April, bound for a resurrection fern
on a cypress up by Pah-hay-o-kee.
Sure, I’d like to blame it on the current
South Florida Water Management District,
but I’m old, like that hardwood hammock
over at Royal Palm, first cycled through
what’s now the national park when
old  Nap Broward was in the governor’s
mansion in Tallahassee following
the dreams of industrialists the likes
of Hammy Disston, two cottonmouths
spitting drainage & dredging venom wherever
they slithered across the Sunshine State.
The hydroperiod hasn‘t been the same since.

Morning sunlight slipped through a stand
of misted slash pines, an abrupt end to the shower
& my elderly neighbor, still abed, dreamed
this improbable dream I had as I strained
to listen, drained my mug of campground coffee –
no time to lose attention, to stray from the gist of things.

So much has changed in the past century:
widespread muck, fresh saltwater intrusion
in ancient sweet aquifers, fewer than
one thousand snail kites left, pond apples
just about gone &, a number of years ago,
one of fifty-some remaining panthers was discovered
dead, from mercury concentrations in his liver, etc.
Trees are merely timber, animals are game
& the earth is only so much subsiding soil
for those rapacious sugar barons with such deep pockets.
Truth be told, I’m afraid
I won’t be back.  Don’t count
on seeing me again.  I’m all washed up,
all washed up….

*   *   * 

A seven-time Pushcart-Prize nominee and National Park Artist-in-Residence, Karla Linn Merrifield has had nearly 300 poems appear in dozens of journals and anthologies. She has eight books to her credit, the newest of which are The Ice Decides: Poems of Antarctica (Finishing Line Press) and Liberty’s Vigil, The Occupy Anthology: 99 Poets among the 99%, which she co-edited for FootHills Publishing. Forthcoming from Salmon Poetry is Athabaskan Fractal and Other Poems of the Far North. Her Godwit: Poems of Canada (FootHills) received the 2009 Eiseman Award for Poetry and she recently received the Dr. Sherwin Howard Award for the best poetry published in Weber - The Contemporary West in 2012. She is assistant editor and poetry book reviewer for The Centrifugal Eye ( Visit her blog, Vagabond Poet, at 

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