Poisoned Honey on Blackout Beach

by angeliska on May 7, 2010

(Paintings by Myrtle Von Damitz III ,
a New Orleans artist and amazing lady. Her work is prophetic, and speaks to me about
what the elemental spirits might be whispering about what we are doing.)

Tonight, my grandfather, my sweetheart and I went to eat oysters.
We wanted to taste the last fruits of the Gulf before they are gone,
possibly forever. Succulent, roly-poly shrimp and fat loaves of catfish
all crisped in batter, two-dozen raw and glistening grey jewels on a
bed of ice. Our waitress at the Shuck Shack answering our hard
questions about the future of seafood restaurants, the future of
the ecosystem with a tremor in her voice and that weird, fucked-up
nervous laugh that I keep hearing from people when we’re talking
about the bleak and monstrous thing that we have done. Yes, we.
We are all complicit in this. We are all a part of this. A book came
in the mail for me today, and as I came home hunting already for
the words I want to nail down here, I took a minute to crack it open
and take a quick look. This is the first thing I found there:
“It’s 3:23 in the morning
and I’m awake
because my great great grandchildren
won’t let me sleep
my great great grandchildren
ask me in dreams
what did you do while the planet was plundered?
what did you do when the earth was unraveling?
surely you did something
when the seasons started failing?
as the mammals, reptiles, birds were all dying?
did you fill the streets with protest
when democracy was stolen?
what did you do

Drew Dellinger, “Hieroglyphic Stairway”
From “Nature and the Human Soul”
by Bill Plotkin

Tonight, I’m up late. Like Drew, I cannot sleep —
though I am very tired. I’ve never felt so helpless
to do anything useful in the face of such a vast
spoiling. I’ll re-shave half my head, my lover’s head,
my fluffy dogs and bag it up and mail it in hopes that
a part of me and those I love might soak up a tiny bit
of that poison
. The poison that fuels my world, that
gets me to work everyday. I sit here hallucinating that I can
smell a whiff of crude on the breeze, knowing that folks
in Mid-City (NOLA) already can. The fertile delta is being
getting kicked in the cunt, repeatedly. Have you ever been
to the coastal wetlands? Do you know what a flock of egrets
looks like? White-white shaded red against the black and twisted
cypress castles in the sunset, the sound their wings make rising up
from the swamp, all at once. Rails, gallinules, and snipe slathered
in oil, eyes blistering. It makes me think of the first trip I made to the
Gulf when I was small. Port Aransas family vacation desperation,
scrappy sad sea-town with sad sea-shell shops that stunk of brine
and pina-colada. Bon Jovi’s Blaze of Glory on every radio, stirring
the first throbs of pubescently painful longing. I was the fetal shark
stuck in the jar at the front desk of the scab-hole, flea-bag motel we stayed at.
Noisy old mold-smelling air-conditioner and sand in the carpet, MTV on every
minute. Walking the apocalyptic beach every day, and finding nothing
but death. Sting-rays, countless fish and birds, and the pulsing, hypnotic
cobalt jellyfish. All rotting, rotten. I was thinking something must’ve happened,
but no one could tell me. I tried overcoming my fear of something sharp touching
my leg in the water and then tugging me down, and let myself be carried out far.
The brown water too warm, like salt-coffee, mud-sea. The bobbing and tar-smell
made me nauseous, but the sight of men fishing off the pier nearby reassured me.
Later, I walked up to see what they were catching so many of. Hammerheads, big ones.
The most pre-historic and vicious of fishes, pulled up from right were I had been
dumbly treading water moments before. Blackout Beach is what I’ve been listening
to over and over while writing this
. The perfect soundtrack for my heart’s bleak moments,
and for dark nights in general. Really, really good stuff. It’s Ass Saw the Angel on Ketamine.
Carey Mercer‘s lyrics make me wish he wrote books as well. More albums will suffice
for the nonce, though. I’m doing what I always do in times like these: I stay up late reading
everything I can find, poring over diagrams, fretting, wishing I had a whiskey, being glad
I don’t smoke anymore (because I’d be through a pack by now) and trying desperately to
write. To get it out of me, and out to you. An exorcism, and a hope that even through some
awareness, there could be a chance at helping. So, here’s a slew of what I’ve been reading
and looking at. Check it out, and at the very least, focus some of your consciousness on what’s
happening right now — and while you’re at it, please spare a thought for poor Tennessee,
seeing the images prickles my neck, it’s so familiar. Drowned cities. This earth, she’s a snake.
She’s being pierced with arrows, curled into a ball, biting her own tail from the pain, and now
rising up in anguish, her back rippling and knocking askew settlements nestled into her corded
muscles. Her hips buck up, and she’s thrashing, drooling and panting, tears and blood streaming
out in great gouts and overflowing the banks. How long until she shakes us off for good?

Deepwater Horizon Response – Gulf of Mexico-Transocean Drilling Incident
New Orleans Journal – As Oil Spill Looms, a City Plays the Waiting Game Again
The Gulf oil spill blame game
If you are searching for the perfect metaphor to describe humanity’s 21st century plight —
an energy-hungry and energy-dependent civilization occupying a resource-constrained planet —
then you need look no further than at a satellite photo of the giant spreading oil slick in the Gulf
of Mexico. That massive hydrocarbon stain is our collective scarlet letter, the price we pay for a
lifestyle of extraordinary affluence and comfort — at least as compared to most of the humans
who have ever lived
.” – from Salon.com
Sierra Club: “Oil spill is America’s Chernobyl”
Sunset, Mississippi Gulf Coast near Waveland, 2008
Katrina. The plight of poor working people. The Great Recession. The BP oil spill.
These aren’t just incidents, or accidents, or unfortunate circumstances.
I’m not saying they’re a conspiracy either. I’m saying they’re all a byproduct of a system
which is deeply, fundamentally broken, and increasingly can produce no other results
-from Clayton Cubitt’s amazing blog
✸ Photographs of the oil spill approaching Louisiana coast
✸ Just in case you can’t quite get your mind around it (I know I can’t),
the good folks at GOOD have provided us with this horrifying bit of perspective –
Infographic: The Size of the Oil Spill
BP using toxic chemicals to ‘disperse’ spilled oil
Black Death: Will Fisheries Survive the Oil Spill?
Tracking the Oil Spill
A map of the extent of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, day by day.

(Photograph by Karen Glaser)
from her breathtaking Springs and Swamps collection
I can’t stop myself from thinking about what’s going to happen when this shit permeates
the bayous. No more crawdads, man. Looking at these gorgeous underwater shots from
Karen Glaser makes me weep for places that were far from pristine a month ago — now
soon to be poisoned beyond all saving. I’m really not sure if a lot of people are comprehending
how majorly fucked we are. This is going to have far-reaching, and long-lasting effects,
and the ripple’s going to touch you at some point. Next time you put a piece of seafood
into your mouth, consider where it came from. Consider the water it lived in. Even if you
don’t eat animals (which I respect, but can’t quite manage), or never considered the Gulf
of Mexico or its wetlands as important (they are), this is going to affect you. A good friend
of mine drove down to the Gulf coast the other day, to see it with her own eyes, and to
say goodbye before it’s ruined forever. She says denial is the general state of mind of
the people she’s met down there. What are the 5 stages of grief? When are we going
to get angry? I’m there, but what will it do? Help me write all this out, I guess.
Or, here’s some things we can do to help:
Oil Spill Volunteers

“I weep for you,” the Walrus said:
“I deeply sympathize.”
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.
“O Oysters,” said the Carpenter,
“You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none–
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.

The Walrus and The Carpenter
Lewis Carroll
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)


I’ve spent weeks wishing that I lived in the US so that I could go and do something. I feel so helpless, I’d like to do something, anything, but I can’t and it bothers me to death.
Very interesting cluster of natural/man-made disasters during these last few years. I think a change is coming and it’s a good change, even though it doesn’t feel like that right now.

by Veterok. on May 7, 2010 at 4:23 am. Reply #

We sure do awful things to this planet, don’t we? You should read some Derrick Jensen. I like the graphic novel he did called “As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial.” He has some other ones that are on my very long to-read list. I’m already reading quite a depressing book so I am not quite ready to read more. I like to read more positive things, because there ARE beautiful things, insanely gorgeous things, and it’s easy to get caught up in the bad.
However, our culture likes to make us focus on unimportant stuff, and it works well. So it’s good to be aware of the bad, and focus on the IMPORTANT good things.
I’m tired and babbling. You write so eloquently.

by Lorra on May 7, 2010 at 4:41 am. Reply #

i loved that you took the time to do this piece on our beautiful home. i don’t think people quite understand the sadness we carry within for our queen. people don’t even know how to react as you have already mentioned. they don’t know nothing bout my pearl river, my atchafalaya swamp, my bayous, my people. i’m attempting not to mourn, because our lady is resilient. i negate all those pompeiian images in my head with thoughts of my daughter dancing in the square, sitting on porches in the metaire laughing, throwing bones. and wonderful people like you angeliska who keep our state alive through art,words and dance. love you girl!

by molly.karen on May 7, 2010 at 7:37 am. Reply #

Thank you so much for writing this. Like you, I grew up damn near *in* the Gulf of Mexico. I’m really heartbroken about this and trying to write about it as well. Thank you thank you thank you for writing this.

by Mary on May 7, 2010 at 11:46 am. Reply #

Thanks for being ever thoughtful and communicative dear bunny. I am your Whiskey, give me a call when you need some. My step-sister that lives in the bay area is a hair stylist in S.F. and donated hair to the cause (they even came and picked it up!)thanks to Coblin’s earlier post. I’m hoping that I’ll have time to come down and work clean-up this summer. I love you, miss you and cherish you.

by Whiskey Deer Wolf on May 7, 2010 at 5:21 pm. Reply #

This is such a powerful post. Thanks so much… As a life long native of Mississippi and Louisiana, and resident of New Orleans I too have been reading everything I can find about this catastrophe. Desperately seeking out ways to help, praying. It’s getting to be summer now, and I’m sure all of us would rather be soaking up the sun somewhere, enjoying life and nature–but, no, it is now our duty to go down into the marshes, to the dirty coast, to gathered oiled birds, shovel blackened sand, and try to remedy what we have done. All the articles I’ve read focus on the scientific technicalities of this tragedy, but this post gets to the spiritual heart of the matter–like the black voice of some ancient prophetess arising out of the stinking, poisoned earth. I think I might shave my head too.

by P.J.LeGette on May 7, 2010 at 5:34 pm. Reply #

Myrtle just closed an amazing show last night- Automata- just so full of wonder.
Oh my, what an eerie post this has been for me. Your motel and beach description are so spot on, it brings back the same uncomfortable memories for me. Cheap, seedy, vertical blinds and moldy carpet, Marky Mark (gawd) constantly on the tv, cheap beer and motorboats, Wisconsin perms, gar skeletons strewing the canal, palpable profound sadness. I had forgotten all about it.
There is a lot of consciousness-shifting going on right now; I hope we can make it stick. Is this our generation’s (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/09/weekinreview/09aoscott.html?pagewanted=1) cross to bear?

by Lanternamagica on May 9, 2010 at 11:43 am. Reply #

Lovely tribute to this magical place and thanks for the link to Karen Glaser’s photographs. It breaks my heart that this disaster is happening right this minute and I am helpless to stop it.

by Lin on May 9, 2010 at 12:00 pm. Reply #

This is so gorgeous and heartbreaking. I’ve been thinking about these things a lot lately as well.
Have you read any Derrick Jensen?

by Sophie on May 10, 2010 at 11:34 am. Reply #

Beautifully written. There are so many things that make me (us) so helpless about this…number one being that it hasn’t stopped. A storm stops, and we can pick up the pieces and count our losses. Not this madness. It’s so sick and indicative of the bad of what man hath wrought. Heartbreak.

by Annie on May 10, 2010 at 3:43 pm. Reply #

Thank you for sharing the swamp photos. Stunning!

by Nix on May 11, 2010 at 12:54 pm. Reply #

Thanks alot – your answer solved all my problems after several days struggnlig

by Maryland on April 25, 2011 at 4:12 am. Reply #

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