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George F. Riess

On April 20, 2010 the BP Macondo oil well in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, killing eleven crew members immediately and gushing out of control for many months afterward.

Awake at dawn with black chicory we waded
The piling that tethered the boat and hoisted over
The gunnels. Bobby Magee popped the evinrude,
Puttered us out to drop our nets a dozen
In line in the channel, and in bare light
We barely made the floats on our first run.
He cut the motor 20 feet before
My silent hands underwater on
The cotton cord pulled and set the net.
Then hand over hand I hauled the agony
Of our catch to the surface til three barnacled
Crabs broke, gaping claws snapping
A last gasp of brine. Down the line
A quarter mile and back, two and three crabs
Per net, we filled a hamper and puttered back.

The marsh is soft at dawn, a place of birth,
A fecund lady delicate in an expectant
way, sibling creatures cycling in
And out of her grasses and still water.
Shy and parthenogenic she needs nothing,
Only to be left alone, like heaven, to yield
Her secrets only to the angels with nets and traps
Who have come and gone for generations.

But the Gigolo sells himself by the hour
To politicians trolling for kick-backs,
Johns trading tax breaks, taking turns on their knees.
And he peddles his science as safe.
So the reckoning. Eleven souls in hard hats
Incinerated, instant ash. An ocean
of fish bellied up, as inside out
As the puking well. Pelicans tarred and feathered
Blinking oil black in their eyes.
Another scene in the geocide.*

The lost world. Cacophony of seabirds
In their morning scrum for scraps.
The slap of a tethered skiff in syncopation
With the surf. The strain of oars in the stroke against
The Gulf. The chapel of cypress, branches vested in robes
Of moss, impenetrable in diurnal darkness.
A boiling court bouillon, cayenne bay leaf mustard seed,
Baptizing blue crabs red. And the salt wind,
All the help the seawall needs to stand
Upright a man bowed by the daily dread,

The lost world. Kingdom come and gone.
* self-destruction of the earth

George F. Riess, a graduate of both Tulane and Louisiana State University, practices law in New Orleans, and teaches trial advocacy at Tulane Law School. His poetry has been published online and in The Pioneer, The Louisiana Review and The Magnolia Quarterly. He won first prize in poetry in Gulf Coast Writer’s Association annual writing contest in May, 2010. George’s poetry has evolved over the years from an exercise in personal therapy, following a tragic loss, to emphasis on craft, to an ease and comfort in expression. He can be reached at
[email protected]

The Spill

In 2010, when the Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill exploded and threatened the way of life that Gulf Coast residents know and love, West Florida Literary Federation offered an outlet for expression. During the six months when the uncapped well gushed, and for one year following the successful capping of the well, writers, poets and photographers from across the country sent us their words, thoughts and feelings, thereby providing a literary record of the Deep Water Horizon environmental disaster. Here are the best of the submissions.

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