Category Archives: poetry

“Burning Water”

By Minnie Bruce Pratt, a poet and communist from Alabama and New York



A poem in memory of the eleven oil-rig workers
who died in the British Petroleum Deepwater
Horizon explosion on 4.21.10–and for the countless
beings on land, in water, in air, and in between,
who are suffering because of that
completely preventable catastrophe.

In the YouTube video a man flips a lighter, flare,
holds it to a belching faucet, the water catches fire,
not a miracle, the companies hydro-fracking us
for gas, the movement of capital in ground water—
And there’s that unpoetic word again, so overt,
admittedly abstract, some even say clichéd, a word
I’d never even heard when me and the cousins sat
in the shrimp boat stern, grownups on vacation
playing penny poker all night in the front, as we
watched the dark horizon line between deep sea
and deeper sky fall behind us and never change.
We hung our legs into strange bioluminescent foam
flung up by our wake, if we’d scooped the water
up with a glass jar as we did the air for fireflies,
we’d have caught eighty species, galactic diatoms
invisible to our eye, to us just some murky water
from the Gulf, which is licked over today with oil
from the blown-out rig, all for lack of a cut-off
trigger, costs half a million, comes out of the foul
profit now crawling on sand—or the drill was too fast,
after all time is money, that is, less for the workers,
more for the company, yes, theory again—or pooled
experience, since there is a connection from abstract
to specific, the translucent organisms that work
to filter water are this morning drinking in oil,
when they float to the surface, when the sun stares
down on them long enough, they will begin to burn
from inside out, microscopic dying stars in the Gulf.
But not the result of a natural, inevitable process.
What I mean is once I saw a flock of little sting rays,
each no bigger than my palm, arrowing like tiny geese
where water met sand in the shallows of Tampa Bay,
I stood in the Gulf and they winged between my feet,
going somewhere I didn’t know. Now what will they eat?
The connection between there and now not inevitable,
matter striking my mind, me trying to catch the spark,

Watch hydro-fracked water burn:


Filed under Alabama, Communism, Corporations, Environment, Florida, Gulf Oil Spill, Gulf States, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oil, poetry, Southern United States, Texas, The Left, Uncategorized, United States