Deborah M Poe

The first picture of earth, you know,
was the one from the spaceship
with the bright yellow gun behind it
lighting up some fine angles
for the ever us after.

Roger Revelle knew then
diatoms are sea creatures
the size of a pin head.

And the Dead Sea between
what is now Israel and Jordan
was called Lake Asphaltites.

amorphous, powder, and diamond
bucky tubes, wire, and sheet.

graphite, like children, is softest
where diamonds are unyielding

microscopic meteorites
South African volcanic “pipes”
recovered from ocean floor
off Senegal’s Cape of Good Hope

how much work is put into understanding

astroturfing reveals: the earth is so big
we can’t have a lasting impact.

watch the carbon dioxide rise
temperatures off the chart.

fishing fleets lay impotent teething
on rusted hulks in sand.

Chaba, Songda, Meari, Ma-On, Tokage, Tingting.

(Self)absorption: the moral, ethical imperative.

Imagine an image of earth aspiring
in blues and greens.

Magnesium (Mg), or Basalt


Clarence Picknernell, a Quinalt-Chehalis-Cowlitz Indian from Tahola, Washington, told this legend in February, 1951. He had heard it from his great-grandmother. Pickernell pronounced the closing words rapidly, in a rhythm and with a hand movement to suggest the lapping of water against the shore.

One time when the world was young, the land east of where the Cascade Mountains now stand became very dry. This was in the early days before rains came to the earth. In the beginning of the world, moisture came up through the ground, but for some reason it stopped coming. Plants and trees withered and died. There were no roots and no berries for food. The water in the streams became so low that salmon could no longer live there. the ancient people were hungry.

At last they sent a group of their people westward to ask Ocean for water.

“Our land is drying up,” they told him. “Send us water lest we starve and die.”

“I will send my sons and daughters,” Ocean promised the ancient people. “They will help you.”

“Ocean’s sons and daughters were Clouds and Rain. They went home with the messengers from the dry country. Soon there was plenty of moisture. Plants and trees became green and grew again. Streams flowed with water, and many fish lived with them again. Roots and berries grew everywhere. There was plenty to eat.

But the people were not satisfied with plenty. They wanted more. They wanted to be sure they would always have water. So they dug great pits and asked Clouds and Rain to fill them.

Clouds and Rain stayed away from their father, Ocean, so long that he became lonely for them. After many moons, he sent messengers to ask that his sons and daughters be allowed to come home.

“Let my children return home,” he sent word to the ancient people. “You have enough water for the present, and I will see that you have enough in the future.”

But the people were selfish and refused to let Clouds and Rain go. The messengers had to return to Ocean without his sons and daughters.

Then Ocean told his troubles to the Great Spirit. “Punish the people for their evil ways,” prayed Ocean. “Punish them for always wanting more and more.”

The Great Spirit heard his prayer. He leaned down from the sky, scooped up a great amount of earth, and made the Cascade Mountains as a wall between Ocean and the dry country. The long and deep hole left where the earth had been, Ocean soon filled with water. Today people call it Puget Sound.

The people east of the mountains are still punished for their selfishness and greed. Ocean sends so Elements 3 little moisture over the range that they do not have all the plants that grow along the coast. But they still have the pits their grandfathers dug. They are Lake Chelan and the lakes south and east of it.

Ocean still grieves for his sons and daughters who did not come home. All day and all night along the beach he calls to them and sings his mournful song: Ah’ tah lah’ tah lah’! Ah’ tah lah’ tah lah’!Ah’ tah lah’ tah lah’! Come home! Come home! Come home!


A continental volcanic arc erupts
and you are part of the burial.

Along the flow a tiny day sleeps.

As the Cascades might indirectly witness

the arching of a pterodactyl’s back anywhere
but now. More gregarious
outside this extrusive interior
(Wing Finger) go great distances
before solidifying.

If I do it this way,
I control who hurts me.

There is this longing to be-
coming the solace
though the dogs are not mine.

The traveler at Deception Pass (a long-faced traveler,
perhaps) turns from iron shirts, big-mouthed guns.
Small crystals coalesce before
evil reveals itself as thoughtlessness.

Pyroxene decorates the neck.

Revivals or missionaries cannot do this justice
Sons and daughters sans frontiers
now, sprint home with molten lava.

Mercury (Hg)

hydrargyrum meaning watery or liquid silver. a heavy, silvery transition metal, an element liquid near standard room temperature. a noble metal, a heavy metal.

Sun high overhead before leaving the shrine. They too would hire a boat to skirt the Kyushu Western coast, Japan’s southernmost island. We are a city located in Kumamoto prefecture.

Nippon Carbide, later Chisso, a company on the shore. Sogi Electric’s electric power surged at dusk and dawn. Nippon’s name carved along rock and wood.

Graves of cryptomeria everywhere. One large operation, always maintained, pinned to a village made city.

Organic compounds like two halls, one important, one dangerous. Lethal pollutant hammers and blows in rivers and lakes. Industrial wastes settle to river, lake bottoms.

Fishing boats pull together. Children dive for treasures before lightning is caused by something other than heat. A blind singer plays a lute.

An influx of patients a thousand fish washing to shore.

Patients poisoned from an unknown source scatter downstream along Agano River and coastal regions.

The government’s official report on Chisso Minamata’s facilities. We follow a road, stop to see the cave at the edge of Kumamoto.

Two small children dance along behind us. Kasane chants [CH3Hg].

In fields I watch numbness in the hands and feet, muscle weakness, narrowing vision, damage to hearing and speech. Insanity, paralysis, coma, death.

Yoko and her foetus in the womb.

Two small children still dance behind.

Venera landed on Venus rather than Mercury. W Eugene Smith took Tomoko Uemura’s Hand.

Hands busy peeling cucumber and eggplant. Some are sentenced guilty. Old illnesses return, feverish and weak.

Our 1,000 attend Minamata’s Disease Victims Memorial. That night it is difficult to dream.

Forbidden to speak, we are quiet also alone. Knowing mercury’s ubiquitous thrust. Spewing from volcanoes, evaporating off bodies of water, and rising as gas from the Earth’s crust, the poisonous element floats in the air as vapor, binds to particles.

After several days, there will always be clouds gathering over some road. There will always be a butterfly. And countries far away, until.

Radium (Ra), or Two Reactions

jolie might not be one of your color colony dates
but I know just what you, calm to coordination, might say.

these luminous treasures before me might not be at brink
of what’s poisonous but pollen down the river like women we lost
passes like a morning cooking a mother long-lived and radiant
where brown-eyed susans lie everywhere, satisfied, by marking granite.

in fact old poisonous unintelligibles die hard, sunrise-wise,
imagining luminous treasures we share, golden, kill.

i’m interested in lab tables, but damn i burn. haven’t we done all we could do?

did i tell you heart and mind possess the same character in Chinese?
whether oatmeal or spectral-lined griddle cake, we have something here.

at her house they aren’t dates, they’re photographs.

deadly reflections of trunks and foliage agree they hurt.
like blood on the page from the tiny spider reaction
the sound of gunshots, extraterrestrial, take breath.

4 empty green chairs by the ungoing hair fire heave,
wear her fire fire burning bright the half poison night.

when we dead awaken yellow bird cries like tin
outcrop kitchen memory irradiates becoming swerves.

how far would she really be? i mean coming from spontaneous fire.

this is perhaps what we all want: the dove cooing new metal delight
or discovery something frightening is not simply coloration.

our product is acknowledgement of deadly potential.

talk to the scientist, the artist of hope in view
reluctant, the light gives understandable pride.

so, vista burden minute etching throat thicket
so now will you.

Plutonium (Pu)

for Elena Filatova


the cars sounded off
Scotland’s alarms
due to rain blowing
from Chernobyl invisible
bullets already en route
from the twilight ukraine
bone-seeking chemical attachments


Belorussian wolf and boar are the future
Poleskoye residents, a thriving ecosystem
a self-managed sanctuary
Przewalski’s wild horses
lynx, turtles, and owls.

“I met a hare in the sarcophagus area
and birds nest there,” said Gaschak,
referring to concrete & steel
encasing a still smoldering reactor.


the future of this land
radiation, wolves & wormwood
is Elena’s motorcycle redstart
starlings, swallows and the geiger
counter measuring hope.

Ununseptium (Uus), or Sound Archeology

Sound archeology the relationship of ululating to echo

What he didn’t say to her in recognition is what he did not recognize himself. Slowly the air whipped in argumentation. Sword of Damocles. Two sides to every story. He said you are not listening. She replied you are always talking. Last night, he responds, I dreamt an egg cracked open your saber- toothed sweater was inside, unthreading itself in tendrils weaving through sewers’ grills. Water began to pour from the sky. It rained, she asked. Yes, it rained. He recalled the owl blinking back at him the day before at the zoo. Petite sauvage, she puled. Jesus, he said. Not really leapt, but leaned back. Electricity buzzed underneath his cap. “Mother,” he breathes. The tree is a tower to the sky; if he was smaller he’d climb it now to almost autumn light, the Manhattan skyline, filled with the buildings’ flight.

The bird lands the first time he speaks the word. It lands on his head. He stops. The bird moves to his hand. Architecture aside, the present ghostly matters.

Deborah M Poe



The italicized in 1987 of “Mercury (Hg)” is from Sam Hamill’s translation of Matsuo Bash’s Narrow Road to the Interior.

“Radium (Ra), or Two Reactions” is in conversation with Lori Anderson Moseman’s “Reunion” from Temporary Bunk and Kate Greenstreet’s “new units of distance” from case sensitive.

There is a reference to Sergey Gaschak in Plutonium (Pu). He is a radioecologist in the Ukraine. Elena Filatova went to the Chernobyl area and completed a series of photographs with commentary available online.

Carbon (C) and Mercury (Hg) in Flim Forum’s A Sing Economy
Magnesium (Mg), or Basalt” in Portland Review
Radium (Ra) in Ploughshares
Plutonium (Pu) in MIPOesias
Ununseptium (Uus), or Sound Archeology in Sidebrow