Friday, June 11, 2021


by Geoffrey Philp

When the MV Express Pearl, carrying twenty-five
tons of nitric acid and seventy-eight tons of plastic
pellets, lurched into the port of Colombo, sailors
released carbon dioxide into the hold to put out a fire
that had been smoldering for two weeks. But it was too late.
The ship keeled from an explosion of the acid and hurled
the plastic pellets into the air, which descended on the yellow
sands of Sri Lanka in a flutter of plastic snow that glittered
at sunrise, like the stone Devair Alves Ferreira bought
from two junkyard scavengers. Intrigued by the blue
light, Devair shaved granules from the stone and shared
the poison of cesium 137 with his family and friends
in Goiânia until his wife’s hair fell out in clumps
on the bathroom floor. And while the Brazilian police
arrested the men responsible for the theft of a radioactive
canister from an abandoned cancer lab, competing
adjusters shift blame to India and Qatar, which denied
entry to their harbors because they “didn’t want
the problem in their backyard.” But tell that to the soldier
scraping debris from the backs of crabs, and who fears
the pellets will raise the temperature of the sand in nesting
grounds of turtles, and a generation of single-sex hatchlings
will crawl into the sea. Or tell that to fishermen who can no longer
feed their families as the ship sinks and the ocean burns.

Geoffrey Philp is the author of five books of poetry, two novels, two collections of short stories, and three children's books. His poems and short stories have been published in The Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse, sx salon, World Literature Today, The Johannesburg Review of Books, The Oxford Book of Caribbean Short Stories, Bearden's Odyssey Poets Respond to the Art of Romare Bearden, Rattle: Poets Respond, and Crab Orchard Review. A recipient of the Luminary Award from the Consulate of Jamaica (2015) and a former chair for the 2019 OCM Bocas Prize for Poetry, Philp's work is featured on The Poetry Rail at The Betsy—an homage to 12 writers that shaped Miami culture. He is currently working on a graphic novel for children, My Name is Marcus. Twitter: @GeoffreyPhilp / Instagram: @geoffreyphilp