Land of Alkali and Chromate

Erie with its dead fish in the ’50s, the Cuyahoga River burned. Air was filled with chartreuse particles and the earth wore a witch’s lip around ponds of sulfur, salt, a burbling grey soup waiting for my father to fall into.

He grabbed at the slippery sides in the dark, muck sucking his shoes off. When he finally crawled out, his clothes were set like concrete. That’s what the doctor said. Being drunk probably saved him.

Today the river’s clean. Erie’s got herons and fish.
Diamond’s been turned into high-ceilinged apartments
and the Chromate’s been razed by men in protective clothing. The land lies under new grass, fenced.

It will take a hundred years for the ground to grow clean.
Across the railroad tracks, weeds grow around the headstones.

Susan Landgraf has published more than 400 poems, essays, and articles in more than 150 journals, magazines, and newspapers, including Prairie Schooner, Poet Lore, Margie, Nimrod, The Laurel Review, and Ploughshares. She’s given more than 150 writing workshops, the most recent being the San Miguel Writers’ Conference, Centrum, and the Marine and Science Technology Center; she also co-led the Kahini workshop in Jamaica with Jordan Hartt and Mellicent Graham. Finishing Line Press published her chapbook Other Voices, and Prentice Hall published her textbook, Student Reflection Journal for Student Success. A former journalist, she taught writing, media, and diversity/globalism classes at Highline College for 27 years and at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in 2002, 2008, 2010 and 2012 through an exchange between Highline and Jiao Tong. A book of writing exercises and a full-length manuscript of poetry are forthcoming next year from Two Sylvias Press and Tebot Bach respectively.

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