“God made dirt,
and dirt don’t hurt.
Put it in your mouth,
and it will work.”
— Children’s rhyme

We ate fire retardant
in our 1970s burgers.
Suckled on sewage
from the lakes.
Inhaled the ashes
of the auto plants.

I remember squishing
between finger and thumb
pieces of gray metal
found on the floor
of our old house.

We were given
solder wire to
chew like gum.
A thing that’s supposed
to be hard
but it’s soft—
too fascinating
and attractive
to us young’ons.

We played in
basements wrapped
in malignant
We gobbled poison
baked by the sun
into our mudpies.

We were taken
on a field trip
to Fermi nuclear
power plant.
Flippant teens,
we made Silkwood and
radioactive glow jokes
as a guide dismissed
the Three Mile Island
disaster as “a fiasco.”

As a grownup,
I watched a movie
with Gil Scott-Heron
singing “We Almost
Lost Detroit.”
That’s how I learned
Fermi once had its
own little accident.
Before Three Mile Island.
Before that field trip.

We’re all grown folks,
scattered around
and outside the
Wolverine State.
When we think
of the land,
water and air
we ingested,
like the kids
we once were—
we should
cross our fingers.

Stephani Maari Booker of Minneapolis, MN, writes prose and poetry for the page and for performance in which she wrestles with her multiple marginalized identities: African American, lesbian, lower-class, and nerdy. The author of Secret Insurrection: Stories from a Novel of a Future Time, she has nonfiction, science fiction, erotica and poetry in many publications. For more information about Stephani’s work, go to www.athenapersephoni.com.

Posted in: Poetry