A Beauty of Seeds–What Have You Done, Monsanto?

A Prose Piece by Nayeli Guzman as told to Beverly Bell

Damn, I should have brought my beans! I wanted to show you my collection. One of my favorites is called powami, a Hopi ceremonial bean. There’s a really beautiful one called Maine Yellow Eye, which is all white and right at the part where the bean sprouts, there’s a little yellow moon on there. There’s another one called Provider. When you put it against the sun, it looks like an oil spill from your car. Man, those beans are so beautiful.

We cooked some red Mexican beans for the harvest festival, and everyone loved them.

It’s always good to be able to give food. It’s the best, dude. We don’t think of what we’re producing in terms of money, but just in terms of health and food for our families.

Farming was in my prayers for a long time. This land is my teacher; it’s my altar. It’s at the heart of my culture. We’ve always done that. We’ve strayed so far from it that I feel we have to go back, no matter where we come from. I’m just being responsible to the struggles my ancestors went through. They fought for tierra y libertad, which means land and liberty. In fact, we’re still going through that struggle today, with our food and even our genes being colonized.


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A Poem by Korea Brownstein

–Based on a sculpture created by Mayo Turner while serving time for bank robbery. The three dimensional piece is made from rope, wooden sticks and velvet on a plywood frame.

Empty eyed
Tall tale signs
Broken wing
Straw heart
Stuck in a web
Dead child
Below the womb
Looking upon
Colorful moon

(For all of the children suffering from the effects of Agent Orange Monsanto, Dow Chemical and others let loose on the countryside of Viet Nam.)

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Sunset over Chemical Valley

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.

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A Poem by Gloria Stevens

2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) is a common herbicide found in Agent Orange developed by Monsanto and Dow Chemical and used around the home and garden.

Here is how you grow rich:
plant 2,4-D everywhere
letting it seek skin and water,
soil and everything in reach
until every seed owned
is owned by you.

Did we not see what happened
fifty years ago, the legacy
still with us, the Agent Orange
children and the Agent Orange

Here is how we grow poor:
plant 2,4-D everywhere,
let the chemical ravage
everything until there is nothing
and then you too feel its teeth,
the saliva in its jaws.

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Genetic Rape

A Poem by Richard D. Hartwell

Too damaged at birth to survive alone,
too innocent to euthanize anonymously;
assuming her mismanaged maternity,
the mother maintains belief in miracles.

Striking a stoical stance, the father
hopes it’s not his fault and knows
he can abandon the thing to others
to feed, bathe, change in perpetuity.

The unborn was helpless anyway,
struggling with death at a fatal
birth, will labor long towards an
end, folded in its mangled limbs.

What’s it like to know a child will
never face life’s charms and chance,
what’s it like to face a life without
parents, meaning, or possibilities?

So many orphaned disabilities
that can only writhe beneath the
monumental shame, Monsanto,
and so many left molding behind.

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A Poem by M. Lapin

–for the Vietnamese people and the American Viet Nam Veterans


When I gather my strength and walk down a row
into my field where nothing can grow
(except concrete and gravel and a few hardy weeds),
I bend in surprise to find a half dozen seeds.

I pick them up gently and find them each a pot,
nurture them carefully hoping to fill the empty spots,
but my field has too many due to chemical scorch
and my field has too many because of war’s torch.

Earth tries to heal, but it cannot succeed,
the topsoil it makes is topsoil that bleeds,
and dead space creates dead space, everything dust,
my field, my people, dying slowly, land into rust.

— Published in The Camel’s Saloon, BrickRhetoric, The Muses’ Gallery

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A Fragment of a Poem by M. Lapin

Every child who died before birth from Agent Orange poisoning
entered the night sky a new star—
every child who died before the age of ten from Agent Orange poisoning
entered the day sky dust particles and acid.


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