I Heard 

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There is a pipe in Indianapolis. A big one. It’s 42 in wide and carries raw sewage under the Monon Corridor between Broad Ripple and Fall Creek. But it also carries a deeper meaning. It was built to solve a problem in a predominantly white, affluent neighborhood by transferring it to a historically black and marginalized one. Prior to the pipes installation, sewer overflows regularly fouled the White River in Meridian Hills and Broad Ripple when it rained. Residents in the affluent enclaves complained. So the City built a four-mile pipeline — at a cost of nearly $7 million — diverting that sewage from the south where it dumps into Fall Creek, home to many low-income, minority residents. This pipe is one of many that carries sewage to Indianapolis’ Waters. There now is an effort to fix the city sewer system. But few people realize it was not just environmental concerns that ultimately led to the DigIndy tunnel, a $2 billion dollar project now nearing completion, which promises to keep sewage out of the city waterways. 

It was a civil rights issue.

Indy Star, March 2020

water be a measure of memory.
only remembers bodies, not right
from wrong. it flows for whoever
tells it to. remember this:
there is no Moses here
& White River aint
no red sea. is this why
it seems like God
never showed up?
never asked us to
mark our doorways
with the blood
of a sacred lamb?
they, too, was killed
by the water. in the wilderness,
anyone can take a rod
& hit a rock, call it clean water
even though out came sewage
from the Monan to Fall Creek
to the White River.
i’ve heard they call this side of
town Babylon & was it not
already wet with grief
in Babylon in the bible?
water is there, but no one

no one said it’s clean.
& aint we parched too?
aint we wandering
in the wilderness?
are we feral beings
because there is no
Moses? i had a friend
get into the water, once,
when we were younger
in the ‘70s. he was baptized
in grime. clothes colored black
& he smelled like death
as the gunk from the sewage
covered him up. were we,
the Black people
on the Westside
of the White River,
the sacrifice?
or our children?
was our humanity,
the sacrifice
for your comfort?
water slips into pipes
of the poor &
remembers the bodies

Chantel Massey (she/her) is a poet, author, teaching artist, educator, practicing Afrofuturist, and anime lover based in Indiana. Massey is a fellow of The Watering Hole and has received invitations from Hurston/Wright Foundation and Tin House. She is a 2019 Best of Net Award nominee and author of Bursting At The Seams (VK Press, 2018) which was a 2020 Indiana Eugene and Marilyn Glick Author Awards Emerging Author finalist. Massey founded the literary arts organization, UnLearn Arts, cultivating and amplifying the craft and wellness of BIPOC writers. Her work can be found in Solstice Literary Magazine, Indianapolis Review, Turnpike Magazine, and other forthcoming online and print publications. To learn more about her work visit www.chantelmassey.com

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