My last rabbinic school residency
Off we go!

Another mother poem: in the water


gulls and pelicans wheeled and cried
below the balcony

morning and evening the cloth umbrellas
unfurled and furled like hibiscus

and daily I walked onto the beach
in my maternity tankini

and entered the water gratefully
imagining you afloat in my small sea

oh, baby, when you are grown
will we reminisce about the old days

when a pregnant woman could still swim
off the soft rippled edge of Texas?

This week's prompt at Big Tent Poetry invites us to try to write about the oil spill -- or anything else that we might want to write about but might feel that we don't know how.

Thinking about the oil spill in the context of this series of mother poems, I found myself thinking about swimming in the Gulf of Mexico a year ago when I was pregnant with Drew. So I went looking for information on how the oil spill might be impacting the state where I grew up, and came across 1979 Gulf oil spill: Heads were buried in sand, a recent Houston Chronicle article by Lisa Gray about the Ixtoc I oil spill which happened when I was four.

The thing that hit me hardest, in the Chronicle article, was this:

[W]hen I asked Port Aransas' old-timers about Ixtoc, most shrugged and struggled to remember something...

Only one question reliably made people light up. I learned to ask what they had used to remove the black, carpet-wrecking tar balls from their feet and shoes.

Baby wipes, they'd say, laughing. Or baby oil.

There's something especially dreadful, for me, about the conjunction of cleaning up the residue of an oil spill and the familiar, comforting scent of baby oil.The baby oil detail was in an earlier draft of the poem, but it felt preachy, so I'm including it here in prose instead. (Same goes for the couplet which asked whether we'd forget this spill just as we seem to have have forgotten Ixtoc. Despite growing up in south Texas, I'd never heard of the Ixtoc disaster at all.)

My browsing also led me to The Worst Oil Spills in History, an infographic by Gavin Potenza which helps me contextualize the magnitude of both the Ixtoc spill and the BP one happening now. And, of course, don't forget the slow and devastating leakage of oil in Nigeria, which isn't even on that map because it's not a single dramatic spill. (For more on that, here's the Guardian: Nigeria's agony dwarfs the Gulf oil spill. US and Europe ignore it.)

To see what others wrote in response to the prompt, you can check out this week's come one, come all post. Meanwhile, don't miss Poets for Living Waters, which is collecting poems in response to the BP oil spill.