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Bird Walk Toxin Talk, Dike 14, Cleveland


Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve

Sometimes a poem ain’t a poem so much as it’s fancy reportage, but since I’m the poet and I say it’s a poem, it’s a poem, so those of youse with your tired rules and shallow schools, go mumble with your marbles and marvel in your moans and let the rest of us tango with the tone.

Bird Walk Toxin Talk, Dike 14, Cleveland

We walked a bird walk guided talk today
on 88 acres of peninsula,
land carved from Lake Erie water
by 20 years of dredged river muck dumped
from the bottom of the Cuyahoga river,
silt and dirt and toxins and runoffs
from the industrial flats,
chemical poisons from steel mills
and coal and asphalt and salt and sewer
and chemist only knows what
taken from the bottom of a river that caught fire
and burned for two hours in 1969,
a river described by its 1880 mayor as
a sewer that runs through the heart of the city,
a river first fired in 1868 and then burned repeatedly
before its multi-million dollar 1952 inferno,
all ignored until 69 when white national reporters
asked America’s first large city black mayor
just what he was going to do about it
so he cleaned it up
showing Congress and country it could be done
igniting the nation’s clean air and water act
leading to boating riverside dock bars
and Goodtime cruises,
though I still wouldn’t drink it, or even swim
(thank you Mayor Carl Stokes),
and today we walked river muck reclaimed
by grass and plants and trees and time
and seeds shat by birds and mammal
and blown by wind,
we saw loon, towhees, tree sparrows,
over a dozen great blue herons,
more redwing blackbirds than I’ve seen in my life,
egret, robins, mallards, crows, seagulls, tern,
flickers that used to be called yellow shafted flickers
until they changed the names to sell more books,
song sparrows, blue gray gnatcatchers, falcon,
fox sparrows doing their back n forth shuffle dance,
a yellow rumped warbler, downy woodpeckers,
cooper hawk, redtail hawk, turkey vultures, cowbirds,
morning doves, and blackbirds
all amidst a constant chorus of birdsong
with solos by anglewing butterflies, poison hemlock,
deer, wild cucumber, boxelder,
and a host of birds plants trees butterflies I missed
and I gotta tell you
it’s a nice this

– Smith, 4.13.2014












Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve

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