The recent disclosure of vast amounts of (25,000 or so) barrels of leaking DDT filled barrels in the deep waters off the southern California coast, was, well, disturbing to say the least. During my childhood my family often spent summer weekends at Santa Catalina island with its seemingly pristine reefs and kelp forests. The toxic barrels were secretively dumped in those far off years and recently discovered.
This poem is a response.
We swam, diving in lucid waters
among the kelp forest on the reef
stared at by red saddled sheephead *
fish who munched on sea urchins and
lit by the golden globes of garibaldi**.
Innocence unaware that
eight miles offshore of the island
barrels of DDT sludge were being
dumped in the thousands upon thousands
on the continental shelf
in the murk, the barrels slowly
leached all these years dichlorodi-
We knew the pelicans with their
great beaks and fishing prowess
had disappeared unable to hatch
their eggs without breaking them,
and the eagles were long gone.
That we knew but not the sinister
presence in 3000 feet of water,
lurking to this day now revealed
in the deep, half a century
after the chemical’s banning
in the US though its maker
Montrose continued for years
exporting to other lands.
The ocean was infinite in those
mid-century years: dump anything into it
and forever gone except
in the monster movies where
the deep would erupt but that
was mostly left to Japan.
Sinister the tens of thousands of barrels
waiting all these years, waiting, waiting
leaking and corroding in the pressures
of the deep ocean, waiting, your truths
now revealed to the cameras.
emerald cove your water so clear
the abalone and the lobsters
on the rocks the sculpin and bass
swimming among the fronds—
experience held in memory,
caught in the traps of loss.
- The California sheephead, Semicossyphus pulcher is a species of wrasse. They have the interesting habit of being able to change sexes but start out as females. Good to eat too. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_sheephead
**A species of orange damselfish, Hipsypops rubicundus, sometimes called California goldfish.