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Monday, June 20, 2016


by Margaret Chula

Oregon has called for federal regulators to ban trains carrying oil in the state, ramping up pressure for more stringent safety checks weeks after an oil train derailed near Portland, the first major oil-by-rail accident in a year. —Business Insider, June 16, 2016

This summer,
figs ripen too soon
and drop
their soggy pulp

in the town
where nothing
has happened

since a murder
of crows nested
in the orchard
and wiped out
the cherry crop.

On the hottest day
of the year,
wind surfers gather
on the banks
of the Columbia
hoping for a gust.

Mothers sit outside
the ice cream shop
licking cones,
for their children
to get out of school.

In the shade
of a big leaf maple,
old men drink beer
and talk about

At noon,
the sound
of the train whistle
as it rounds the bend

and then
a deeper sound,
like an empty well

as, one by one,
sixteen oil cars
tip over sideways
and burst
into flames.

Black oil
the orange poppies

      along the ground

         slithers into
            the cold river.

Author’s note: This poem was written immediately after the oil train derailment and fires in Mosier, Oregon. My husband and I were about to close on a condo there. We're actively protesting trains of Bakken crude oil passing through towns along the Columbia River.

Margaret Chula has published seven collections of poetry, including Grinding My Ink which received the Haiku Society of America Book Award. She served as poet laureate for Friends of Chamber Music in Portland, Oregon, and as president of the Tanka Society of America from 2011-2016.