Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Poisoning the Gulf

A rogue pelican flutters thirty feet above the coastline bordering Louisiana's southern peninsula. No longer capable of spreading its wings to their full width, its movements appear awkward, its trajectory tilted as if the bird were attempting to fly at a ninety degree angle.

It hitches a ride on an ocean breeze, the winds pushing the incoming tide toward the deserted shoreline.

Lowering its body to a foot or two above the rolling waves, the bird dips its head into the water as it veers into a glide. Submerged no more than a second, then rising, struggling to gain altitude.

Its bucket-shaped bill, designed for scooping unsuspecting fish from the ocean's current, has captured only a mouthful of sludge, which slowly drains from either side of its mouth like a busted sewer pipe. Rotting sewage returning to its basin to ferment under a bayou heatwave.

The pelican hasn't fed in a week. While fish dot the water's surface in vast numbers, their silver scales resembling diamonds sparkling in a field of tar, they're floating with the tide, lost to the poison. The few survivors have gone deep, in search of an ocean free of disease.

A filmy layer of mucus blocks the pelican's vision, allowing it access to a world gone black, through a line of sight the size of a pinhole. And of course there's the added weight to consider. With every plummet to the water in search of food, a fresh veil of oil coats the bird's already failing wings. Unlike salt-water, the poison refuses to filter through the its feathers, but instead clings to anything within reach, forming a mold, slowly enveloping its victim like a spider's web.

Hunger pains grab the bird's spine and clench. It calls out for assistance, but finds none. It is the last surviving member of its flock. And the weight continues to push downward to where the black sea awaits.

We've plundered our world's resources, pierced its core and released the bile within. It rose to the surface, its tentacles reaching for our shores, choking the life of every living soul in its path. A mass of slimy filth, polluting our ecosystem, turning our once green waters to mud. And all for a population bent on moving faster, on keeping our food colder, and our water warmer.

The Gulf lies in ruin. A sea of tar. Waves of poison splashing ashore and tainting our sands to a gelatinous ooze. The underbelly of our planet's core. A multitude of seaborne bodies floating atop an ocean dying, its curse spreading further with the current.

And unnoticed to anyone but the dead or dying, a once majestic bird, now nothing more than hollow bones wrapped in soot, releases a final screech before plummeting from the skies to its floating grave below. Swallowed up by the poisons set free by those held in charge of sustaining our planet.



Christine Danek said...

This is very powerful. It definately captures the pain our planet suffers when we screw up.
Great work and a wake up call.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Yes, very powerful.

j.m. neeb said...

Wow. That is powerful stuff, man. The whole situation is simply tragic and your words capture it so well.

This was hard to read, but only because of the emotions you evoke. That is the sign of great writing.

Robert Guthrie said...

What an elegy.

I hate that it was necessary.

And we thank you for it.

Helen Ginger said...

Oh, Elliot, you had me bawling. The pictures of the oil covered birds and turtles are the worst, but this post was the best.

JUST ME said...


But in a sad, sad, awfully sad way.

But it's true. Which makes it even worse.

Jemi Fraser said...

Well written. It's such a tragic event. We, as humans, need to get much better at taking care of our planet!

Anita said...

Oh, man. This is all so tough. The whole thing just DOMINATES my thoughts sometimes. If your words are helping you deal, I think that's great.

Elliot Grace said...

...toured Florida's side of the Gulf with my family a year ago this very week. I lived there for a time during my childhood, and had forgotten the sheer beauty of the coastline, the smells and such.

It sickens me to read of a restoration process which may take upwards of a decade for the ecosystem to recover.

Busting out this post felt like running a mile on the track after a lousy day at work.

Thanks so much for reading and your thoughts:)

The Words Crafter said...

Hello Elliot,nice to meet you! I read this, barely. I love animals and can't stand to see them in pain. I can't even talk about this without getting into a soapbox issue that makes me livid...so, I'll just say: wonderful and tragic, beautifully written...

G.~ said...

I have such a hard time reading about or hearing about this stuff. It breaks my heart into tiny little pieces.

Is there a possibility I could just ride out there and stand on the ocean front and wash every bird i see to remove the oil from their wings?

If it was allowed, if I were able to do that, I would.

I know it won't take away what has happened but someone has to start cleaning it up. Why doesn't BP employ all the unemployed people to start cleaning up?

Judy Croome said...

Elliot, I find this piece, and the photo, really challenging, which is what good writing should do. Challenge one into action or new ways of thought. Can't bear the thought of the animals dying so awfully. When will humans learn we are not the only species to live on this earth?

Elliot Grace said...

...returned from a hiatus to find more comments and a handful of new readers, to which I'm forever grateful.

Thanks so much!

Nicole Murray said...

I wouldn't know where to start about how angry, frustrated and frightened I am of what has happened--is happening in the gulf. Thank you for expressing a bit of it. Good writing.

And I like your profile BTW. Things I have said myself.

Lola Sharp said...

Sorry I'm so late to this post, my friend. (you know I'm away on vacation)
The oil gushing in the gulf (STILL) has me beyond...beyond furious, beyond grief stricken...beyond. The endangered wildlife, many of whom only live and/or breed in the gulf ...oh, I can't even type about it.

But you wrote a tremendous and poignant post here.
Thank you.

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Olivia J. Herrell said...

Oh, Elliott. You made me look at something I've been shielding myself from, witnessing from a distance but staying aloof. It hurts too much. The picture alone was enough to bring the tears, I have a special affinity to pelicans. But your haunting, heartwrenching commentary ripped me to the bone.

I can no longer not look. I ache for the littles, the ones who have no choice. You have forced me to feel their pain. Thank you. I will share this article everywhere I can: on my blog and on Facebook and Twitter. So the other empaths who refuse to look will have to.

~That Rebel, Olivia

Elliot Grace said...

Thanks so much for reading and your comments. Forwarding this post to others is a wonderful gesture. The devastation in The Gulf may very well be the worst man-made catastrophe in our lifetime...an event we are all responsible for.
Thanks again:)

Jules said...

Thanks to Olivia I've been here reading. The movement of emotions you demand are beautiful. It is a perspective few chose to see but you have shed light. Wonderful post.

Adeeva Afsheen said...

Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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