Tuesday Nov 20

AndiStout Andi Stout is a native West Virginian currently teaching Composition at her alma mater, WVU, where she received her MFA degree. Her duties include: writing, reading, and teaching her students how to use a pen responsibly. She is the recipient of multiple writing awards and publications in multiple genres. In June of this year, she will be performing in Pocahontas County, WV as part of the writing series inspiring local high school students to pick up the pen. Andi enjoys platform sneakers, purple, and quality pajama time.

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The 12 Days of the WV Chemical Spill…and Counting
 

Day 1
—West Virginia residents in nine counties
Jackson, Roane, Clay, Putnam, Cabell, Logan, Kanawha, and Boone
check into Charleston Trauma Center
reporting symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and skin irritation.
 
Day 2
—787 cases of exposure. Nine of 55 counties can’t use
the water. Piped into homes, hospitals, schools, and offices—
all contaminated.

Day 3
NBC Nightly News covers the story for 2 mins. and 28 secs.
For emotional appeal, executives in business suits decide
a child must be present in frame at 39 seconds.
A mother with the appropriate twang questions why she’s paying
for water unsafe to drink.

A semi-tanker is stationed in a parking lot outside the hospital.
Water is distributed like government cheese. On the dole.
No one knows when “the issue will be resolved.”

Day 4
The New York Times exposes lax regulations.
Freedom Industries’ storage facility sits a half-mile upstream
from a water treatment plant, the largest in the state.
West Virginia regulation does not require
inspection for storage facilities, only production.
Lawmakers and politicians offer no answers.

Everything travels downstream.
Cincinnati shuts intake valves from the Ohio.
 

Day 5
— Governor, Earl Ray Tomblin begins lifting
restrictions on drinking water in zone priority. 

Day 6
—Erin Brockovich posts photos on Facebook—
a porcelain bathtub filling with yellow water tinged green,
a caption that asks, “and it’s clean?”

Day 7
— Freedom Industries files for Chapter 11
bankruptcy. They will pay back nothing
and refuse to comment. 

Day 8
—Senator Manchin says he will continue to fight against
Environmental Protection Agency regulations. He quotes,
Montoni semper liberi,” but has no idea what it means.

Day 9
—In an interview he expands on the theme:
“coal and chemical inevitably bring risk—but that doesn’t mean
they should be shut down.”
The newspaper calls him “Mr.” instead of “Senator.”
So, he quotes Cicero,
because he’s been told it’ll make him sound intellectual
at cocktail parties in DC. 

Day 10
—Snow covers potted seedlings like soufflé skin.
Locals go out to measure icicles hanging from houses.
Mom calls to say, “leave the faucets dripping.”
 
Day 11
—Freezing fog hangs in the air, delicate and vicious.
Plows run but streets are covered again in minutes.
Cars drive white-knuckled in a creeping line.
The world is, again, preoccupied with Chris Christy.
They deem it Bridge-gate.

Day 12
—The House of Delegates declares a WV prayer day.
Prayer will not create appropriate living wages or money
for education. Prayer will not clean up the water supply.
 
We do not need a leader sitting on his knees
genuflecting in prayer pose.
We need an Elizabeth Warren for West Virginia—
someone armed with a pen, the knowledge to use it,
and a few scratch sheets of paper.
 
For House of Delegates, one needs to be at least 25 years old,
a citizen of the U.S. for seven years, and an inhabitant of the state
they represent at the time of election. For senate, one must be
at least 30 years old, a U.S. citizen for nine years,
and an inhabitant of the state they represent at the time of election.
 
Now, who will it be?
   

 

Sustainable Fracture
        
“These are the hills of longing, as good as good can be”
                                                                        —Southeast Engine

 
Carbide teeth hook-saw mountain sides,
a continuous miner

pulling out coal.
 
Unused dye slow-drips down the kitchen drain,
but I’m in a hurry to shed someone I used to be.
Impatience is all the weight of the world
on chipped shoulders.
I want to be mistaken for eccentric,
 
so I say I need you.
 
The bell chirps at shift change.
Sooted men stand at the mouth smoking cigarettes,
 
talking about family:
 
one says he knows another’s daddy.
Both, have photos of their children to show
 
tucked inside a left boot.
 
You are the mosquito lurking in the rafters,
circling river rock tinged orange
along the bank scooping new blood.
Students scribble for twenty minutes
in ten minute bursts,
one flicks her wrist to shake the numb out,
 
an honest bite.
 
Outside, I hear the roar of Mack trucks kicking into gear
ready to take it all away.

 

 
Skid

 
Here, when it rains, the air smells of shit and dead fish.
Undertones drift down University Avenue
chasing cars bathed in streetlight afterglow, flickering.
A man on the radio says, “We’ve all got our reasons to burn.”
 
Sneakers joined by laces hang on telephone poles
above patches of battered sidewalk.
Stray gravel seeps into open potholes
like salt settling to make them in winter.
 
Another New York license plate forgets to signal,
so a local tailgates him all the way to the liquor store.
 
Children play in the spray of passing cars.
 
Prophets stand on used soapboxes
and preach in the campus quad with megaphones,
while frat row begs for donations in a corner booth.
 
She digs a cigarette out of the glove compartment, six months old.
Wiper blades offer only moments of clarity; cars in front spit debris.
Smoke rolls through the cracked window. She keeps driving.
 
 

 
Rhythm
 

Connotation, connotation, connotation. The word sounds like a rebuilt ’57 Mustang engine idling in the parking lot of the last gas station before the desert. It’s the dense kind of combustion at the epicenter of kinetic—the kind that can be felt in the knees through the red leather bucket seats. He feels it. So much depends on a felt tip Sharpy and 99 Cent Store scratch paper. In his shirt pocket, he carries a dollar bill his youngest sent him when she was six with a note that read, so you’ll have some money. He is fallible, makes mistakes often, but she’s not one of them. Tonight, he’ll listen to Cream Soda Throw Rug and be the drummer again—keep the musicians in time, all the instruments making sense. His best friend is two hours from anywhere trying to paint unfinished aluminum walls, a leaky roof above his head. He looks both ways for traffic that isn’t coming because some behaviors are conditioned like deep listening—a kind of listening that requires controlled breathing from the diaphragm. 

The Esso sign struggles to flicker and hums red at dusk.