Now, beside the racing, incomprehensible racket
Of the sea stretching its great girth forever
Back and forth between this direction and another,
Please let the words of this proper praise I speak
Become the identical and proper sound
Of my mourning.
from "Eulogy for a Hermit Crab," by Pattiann Rogers. Anthologized in Stories from Where We Live: The Gulf Coast, edited by Sara St. Antoine (Milkweed Editions, 2002).
The phrase "incomprehensible racket," which Pattiann Rogers uses here to describe the sea, now reminds me of what it must sound like in the Gulf of Mexico as BP and everyone else attempt to fix our country's biggest oil spill ever. "Incomprehensible" also reminds me of the mess that has already reached Louisiana and is headed for the Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida shorelines, all places I have spent many happy hours. Let's hope last night's giant funnel solution might actually pan out. Nothing, of course, will bring back the eleven rig workers who died.
Stories from Where We Live: Gulf Coast, from a Milkweed series for children, is an excellent collection of short poems, essays, and fiction, all focusing on nature and people's' relationship to place. This morning, as Junior crackled with excitement for his final elementary-school field day, I tied him to a chair suggested he sit down and listen as I read "The Singing River," about Mississippi's Pascagoula River, which is said to, yes, sing. Sylvia B. Williams' story describes the waterway, offers a few theories about the sound, and includes a Native American legend about the place.
This is a good book to read right now, and a fine starting point for conversations about the disaster that started some forty miles off the coast of Louisiana.
I'm not able to find a copyright-adhering online link to "Eulogy for a Hermit Crab," but in addition to Stories from Where We Live: Gulf Coast, you can find the poem in Rogers' Dream of the Marsh Wren (Milkweed, 1999) and Song of the World Becoming: New and Collected Poems 1981-2001 (Milkweed, 2001).
Additional link: Pascagoula River Audubon CenterPhoto credit: [Live] Hermit crab on sea cucumber, Monterey, California. Image taken by Clark Anderson/Aquaimages. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.