Sunday, August 10, 2014

Michael Ceraolo- Two Poems

from The De-Greening of America

May 31, 1889
If two hundred million beaver
now ninety-five percent exterminated
could safely construct countless earthen dams,
                    that subspecies of human being,
the industrialist,
                        sadly still extant,
                                                  could do the same

(definition of industrialist

who has many people
being industrious
on his or her behalf,
so that he or she
doesn't have to be)

                                And so
when a plague of industrialists decided to build an earthen dam
to create a private lake for their exclusive pleasure
                    no industrialist hands
were actually dirtied in the building of this dam),
the genuflection before wealth
(even wealth that live in town,
as was the case here),
the continued conflation of that wealth with intelligence
(which went so far as to credit the wealthy
with intelligence and even expertise
in areas far removed from those
where their money was made)
would rightly bear most of the blame

would bear lesser blame as well:

                                                  from those
who made the initial decision
to build the town on a floodplain
(and in a valley, no less!);

                                        to those
with the human hubris that hewed away
chunks of the channels of the creeks and rivers
and thus exacerbated the fact of the floodplain;

                                                                      to those
who ferociously tore down trees
and increased the runoff from the mountain
and worsened the flooding already present;

                                                                 to those
who took the wrong lesson from the fable
of the boy who cried wolf,
one day the boy would be right,
he would be far from the only one harmed
when the forecast disaster actually happened

when the rains began on Memorial Day evening
and continued overnight,
the heaviest in the town's collective memory,
                                                                  was created
one of the most sinister synergies:

going over the top (!) of the earthen dam
(because the dam was lower in the middle
than on the ends,
than vice versa as it should have been)
caused the dam to fail in the afternoon
on this date,
an avalanche of water destroyed the city
of Johnstown, Pennsylvania in about ten minutes
to prove biblical prophecy wrong,
the fire came this time too,
                                        with the flood,
as stoves and boilers were knocked over,
many things not already sodden caught on fire)

More than two thousand people paid the ultimate penalty
(the exact number impossible to determine:
dead bodies were still turning up as late
as seventeen years after the disaster,
       as always,
took advantage of an unexpected opportunity
to disappear and start new lives)
something they bore decidedly lesser responsibility for;
the wealthy who wore much more responsibility
paid a pittance for their part,
the building of America's industrial empire
and its attendant pollution
would continue unabated for many more years-----


The Land Ordinance of May 20, 1785:

"The surveyors,
as they are respectively qualified,
shall proceed to divide the said territory
into townships of six miles square,
by lines running due north and south,
others crossing these at right angles,
as near as may be"

"The plats of the townships respectively,
shall be marked by subdivisions
of one mile square,
                            or 640 acres,
in the same direction as the external lines"
these would later be divided into fourths
to created the 160-acre tracts
thought to be ideal for a nation
of yeoman farmers

A policy
                A philosophy
the 'rationality' of man-made boundaries
rather than natural ones was established

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