plants, mines and me
by t. zoEy benally

nineteen-sixty-one, only one of my best friends was born
but she was too young to attend, not connected enough
to receive an invitation to the ground breaking, spray painted gold
shovels pushed into sandy earth with hogback looming across the river
wonder which politicians pushed that spade with their cowboy boot?
promised jobs, money to help us evolve to the 5th world

i remember in Kindergarten, 1975, remember at career day
i snuck away from the nurse and secretary exhibits long enough to hear
secrets told to the boys about scrubbers & bag houses to clean clouds
whiten steam billowed out of tall black stacks, hidden ships
trying to wend their way away from Navajos, coffers packed with coal
carefully dug from around graves, silent protesters ignored

she lived at east low rent, was able to afford tiled floors, sidewalks
a roof that didn't leak, she had no weeds to pull, squash bugs to pick
from the undersides of large dark triangular leaves, eggs to smash
i have to admit i never saw her push-start her family's vehicle, and
she always had nice shoes, never had to patch with tire patches
sole holes, her dad worked at the power plant, an electrician maybe

i'm not sure when it started, but it would wash away with strong rains
then gradually would build up again, stretch it's scrawny fingers
across the skies, fondle the southern skies, rub the western horizon
drum finger tips north to Ute Mountain, dangle it's dirty nails above the sunrise
my uncle said that the beautiful pink sunsets were actually a by-product
resulted from polluted air rising up from the deceptively pure emissions

i took my hard hat the first time i visited, not really a tour, a survey
part of my job, look at the water, 0.05 microns of conductivity, so empty
they had to add catfish water back in for humans to drink, and avoid cell lysis
those clouds were still white, but black soot rained down, flooded,
covered faces, shoulders, sidewalks that i walked across, i inhaled a good
lungful of fine dark particles, stolen coal burned making it's way back to me

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