Double Vision

by Susan B. McDonough
Third Place, March 2009
Judged by Elena Karina Byrne

“Only after the last tree has been cut down, Only after the last river has been
poisoned, Only after the last fish has been caught, Only then will you find
money cannot be eaten.”
~ Cree Prophecy

The forest looks for its branches,
bark removed, smooth edges chase
ridges. Empty air. Stumps settled;
discs waiting on a checker board
asleep on a mossy forest floor.

The river a sleepy serpent: a trail
of exploitation and corruption.
Well wishers float on their backs
fore-cast in a logger’s chagrin.
Skeletons lock arms heading beyond
waterfall’s roar past a bend
where only mud will swim.

Iridescent fish are slipped inside
already thick pockets. Eyes that can’t rest
remain suspended, weighty; a watch hung
from a chain. It tic tocs through the 70’s, 80’s 90’s…
The water continues to rise and fall without
pomp and circumstance until it bleeds opaque;
so thick that we cannot find our feet.

Pollution and deforestation, this poem's overall important theme thickens in our veins where, really "only mud will swim" with Rachel Carson's ghost. The lines "Well-wishers float on their backs/ fore-cast in a logger's chagrin" and "iridescent fish are slipped inside/ already thick pockets," using assonance and internal rhyme, musically target the poem's underlying tone. Image for image, the importance of this geo-political idea successfully veers from didacticism. --Elena Karina Byrne