I sing in the car on my way home from Indiana.
Sometimes it is storming and lightning glows.
Sometimes the sun is setting and the clouds
look like mountains.
I pass the Horseshoe Casino fading cotton-candy-pink
and highway entrance signs
and continue until the oil refinery plants fade
in overgrown prairie grass.
Their columns loom like turrets,
hundreds of machines reaching
into the sky, here to rain acid
on the people and the little park
BP paid for.
The first time I saw their pillars scratching
I imagined them releasing their hold,
what might tumble down to Earth. I saw how close
the coneflower could grow to the oil tanks
the bristle grass teeming in late summer,
around a portal of death.
Now, I feel a kind of peace
having finally acknowledged these machines—
glass in my foot pincers at my ankle.
This is not the route for prayers,
So much has already
The river doesn’t know it is taking us back.
The feather-reeds don’t know
they will grow over us,
through us, out of us.
That their whispers will be the last echo
in the refinery plants
before they disappear.
By the time Chicago appears
floating on the lake,
the boats are gone and
cars roar through
the curve. Brick buildings overtake
the grasses: red, brown, golden.
Nisha Atalie is a mixed poet of South Asian and European descent from the Pacific Northwest. She is a poetry editor at MASKS literary magazine and her poems have been published or are forthcoming in Blood Orange Review, The Hunger, Tinderbox Poetry, Breakwater Review, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the 2021 Eileen Lannan Poetry Prize.