Front Porch Blog

RIVER, LARGE by Dottie Mann

imageIn West Virginia, I have learned, the mountains are not safe.
King Coal buys them by the lot, then cuts them down
To scrape out coal.
Yes, lops off the mountain tops layer by layer,
To feed our country’s ravening lust for power,
So I can cool my house and heat my pool.
The unseen cost is very high
And I would have you know it.
First they clear cut all the trees and core-sample to find the seams.
Roads are built for mammoth trucks and cranes
Connecting to the railroad line.
Now here’s perhaps the worst, if one can grade such mayhem:
The ripped-up, still-breathing carcasses
Of all those Appalachian mountain tops
Are dumped by cavernous truck-loads-full
Into the nearest, easiest, cheapest place—
The valleys down below.
That’s where the unsuspecting rivers flow
Innocent and pure, feeding the fish and cleansing the land,
Nurturing the folks along the banks
For longer than we know.
Now many are dead, 20% of West Virginia’s waterways gone,
Suffocated from the slaughtered mountaintops
Trucked down to the valleys.
Just gone, the swift brooks and gentle streams that fed the major rivers.
Just gone.
Then water, streaming from the sky, has no place to go
And only following Nature’s laws,
Brings floods.
A double peril haunts the West Virginia folk:
Their land devalued, broken and destroyed,
And every storm a threat to life and land and home.
The rivers aren’t to blame, of course –
They aren’t even there any more.
Their ghosts may shed a tear.
(Thanks Lenny and Dottie)

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