near Inez, Kentucky
It could seem like mercy, like good fortune,
a passing over: that when the slurry
breaks the waste pond’s bottom, it oozes down
two creeks, not one, divides itself between
Coldwater Fork and Wolf Creek, doesn’t rise
very high. Dead fish, but no people died.
Like good luck, that the slurry — three hundred
million gallons, thick as pitch, a dark
dirty slop of mud, mercury, arsenic,
debris that’s left after the prep plant scrubs
its surfeit of coal — that the slurry comes
into town not as flash flood, grinding surge,
but as low ripples, a foul gummy soup.
The thickest chocolate shake, people say.
Smells like hydraulic. A slow-moving black
smothering. Children throw rocks at the creek,
busted cement bricks, old tires, just to find
what else will float. Around here, you don’t
have to be Jesus to walk on water.
“Slurry Spill,” excerpted from Spring Up Everlasting, Mercer University Press, © 2020. Used with permission. William Woolfitt is the author of three poetry collections, including Beauty Strip and Charles of the Desert. His poems, short stories, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in AGNI, Blackbird, Image, Tin House, The Threepenny Review, and other journals. He’s an associate professor of English at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee.