THE DISEASE OF AGENT ORANGE

A Poem by M. Lapin

Once I listened to a poet
(but I cannot remember her name
or the title of her poem)
who wrote lines about Cincinnati
using the Yellow Pages,
the names of corporations,
factories, the outpouring of chemical
into the early evening sky.
As I listened, I saw the sky
she saw, the setting sun,
the slow motion vibration of light
through pollution, the setting sun
caught in prisms, the end of day
wonderful with color, a drizzle
of compounds, everything
rainbowlithic. Years later a river
in that town caught fire.
So I ask you, Monsanto,
Dow Chemical, Uniroyal, can you
hear the beauty in that poem, too?
Did you see the splatter of spray
over American soldiers,
Vietnamese, the now extinct forest
wildlife and trees a display
of beauty? Did you not know
what it would cover, its effects
on people and life, the evolution
of humans to almost humans?
Did you not think the fish would change
and the water buffalo and the small peeper?
How could you not comprehend
the spread of poison down the Saigon River
into the oceans, the threads of life,
spreading its wealth into all of us?
The poet read a poem about dusk
in Cincinnati and I a poem
somewhat different, but still laden
with chemical and its rainbow of defects
that refuse to go away, but continue
until even rice might hold fire in its seed
burning its way slowly into all of us.

— First published by Asbestos Boots on Beatnik Feet

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