Monday, August 4, 2008

Worthy of a Follow-Up Article in the Metro Section

Wrote this last year as part of the disaster poem series. There was indeed a follow-up article on the Brentwood anthrax deaths the other day, in the Metro section--on the front, not in the inside rail. The Postal Service denied the request of the wife of one of the victims, also a postal worker, to transfer to a different facility after the incident.

The Deaths of Two Workers at the Brentwood Postal Facility, Washington, DC

It’s not the first time white powder
Shut things down around here.
Or the first time it killed, either.
From horse to green to rock it went;
The dealers circled this island
For decades. A postal job
Is supposed to be one way out.
You do your best to steer clear,
Just like they tell you, keep your
Head down, hold your head up,
Keep your nose clean, but damned
If they didn’t find a way to bring that poison
Right in the front door.
And they even got us to carry it.

Try telling anyone around here
That it wasn’t made by the government.
Try telling us that a conservative
Treatment policy was wise.
We know some of them got the cure
Before they even got the disease.
Everyone knows there are plenty
Of pills in the White House. All colors.

Anthrax is one of the ancient ones,
Like rabies, tuberculosis, and
Of course.
You should have known we’d bring that up.
The anthrax spores wait in the ground
Where an animal has died, and wait,
Until someone tries to plant, to build,
And then they jump out at the living.
The spores survive in Egyptian tombs;
An effective weapon of defense
To get our kings through to the afterlife
With their riches intact.

How long before they answer our question:
How long were they planning to wait?
For six days, the particles floated around us as we worked,
Worked their way into the folds of lungs, into
The clean line of a paper cut, into our laughter
And our greetings and our side-mouth comments,
Yes, and they came home with us to greet our children.
The spores survive so much that we can’t.
Spores have the advantages of being a lower life form—
No stress, no coughing, no bills to pay,
No fool for a boss. But all are equal underground.

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