The Apostrophe Blog
In January 2012, my triptych poem series, “Distant Early Warnings,” was published online in PANK Magazine. According to the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary, a triptych is “a set of three associated artistic, literary, or musical works intended to be appreciated together.” My three poems married together musings about the 2011 Fukushima reactor meltdown; the history of coal-mining disasters in the corner of Pennsylvania I hail from; and the coming onset of what we were then calling “peak oil.”
PANK was founded in 2006 by M. Bartley Seigel and Roxane Gay. As stated on its website, PANK is “a literary magazine fostering access to innovative poetry and prose, publishing the brightest and most promising writers for the most adventurous readers. Up country, to the end of the road, to a far shore and the edge of things, to a place of amalgamation and unplumbed depths, a place inhabited by contradiction, quirk and startling anomaly, where the known is made and unmade, and where unimagined futures are born, PANK.”
As part of the publication process, I took part in a fun “Ask the Author Q & A” several months after my poem was published as part of their “Young Bright Things” series. The questions interrogated language in my poems in creative, surprising ways which then led me to creative, surprising responses.
Here’s the final question and my response:
These crows you refer to, are these the same crows that bring back the murdered to make those wrongs right or are they the Heckle and Jeckle type that steal your corn and crack wise?
The crows in the first part of the poem seem savvy to me. They are interested in self-preservation, know when it is time to give up, to jump the ship of a particular landscape, in this case the trees around the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The crows in Part 3—they are the wisecrackers. They are back, claiming and declaiming, in spite of.
Distant Early Warnings
distant early warning (abbr.: DEW) noun
a radar system in North America
for the early detection of a missile attack
- Upon Reading Another Report About Setbacks Nearly Three Weeks After the March 11th Tsunami Engulfed the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant
For this day, there is a cloud-cast
thick as the clotted vapors
spinning out more lies.
Where the moon has lessened
to splice the reddening forest
with any slivers of sight.
Crows flee the boughs
above each tower while the sea
surges into the troughs.
By the char-stumps in a field
once was a tang of promise—
now women cry and men work the rust.
Last, the earth will pool from seep,
all bite of isotope spilling
suns soon grown to taint dear life.
While near a cooling pond,
one man in a mask breathes that air,
knows his lungs can’t fission.
- The Exile Tries to Understand Her Place in the World Yet Again
Notable for its anthracite coal, Pennsylvania’s Wyoming Valley
is part of the ridge-and-valley, folded Appalachians.
Deep mining ended after the Susquehanna River permanently flooded
the tunnels in the 1959 Knox Mine Disaster.
Overnight, I was a priestess
spent by another threat,
propping up my lies.
Since, my day has wakened
to rubberneck this window
counterfeit with pain.
Hope drains from sight,
resists a shift to rest—
ruin excavates most cruel.
Beneath the houses of my village,
long forms the dew of poison
as hillsides slip, another sinkhole caves.
Slow to end that world, my birthright
the creak of drifting, slopes,
ramshackle wrecks that land as fill.
Here in my robe, I pine crestfallen
exile, woebegone—nothing wrong at all.
I hold my breath. And wait.
- Peak Oil Comes Hither
The cherry still buds, blossoms fall
as the rarest rain pelts
every petal to an asphalted tattoo.
Before, more clay got carted,
clods to spackle the holes, mudded
sutures, compost trumping blight.
This is now life foreseeable—
no more center-pivot irrigation
a chorus line kicking up seed.
Long gone, the vast of valley,
anhydrous ammonia in silos,
reassuring fields of bean and beet.
Along the alley’s fence, we coax
rising vegetable rootstock,
leaves our mulch, our armaments.
The sky is leap and dry.
No rest from our buckets hauling
the sacred drips we capture, store.
While crows claim their turf,
wires this day of tree-branching
symphony led by the wind.
Variations in the key of caw,
their cries are companion
to words that pucker a tongue.
Raucous, ruckus, reckless,
they dive-bomb the midden
of already cherry-picked trash.
The public domain image above is a distant early warning radar installation in Greenland.