Hotel Jericho

Lowcountry, maybe twenty
upstream miles from the Battery
and a few feet above the sea;
the gators and the blackwater
patiently flow, and you can just about
hear the ghost-song of the ivory bill
echo off the cypress knees.

On the south bank, the land
swells forty or so feet
to lanky yellow pine stands
and narrow Old Jacksonboro Road,
holding to the rim till a finger
of the Caw Caw points to where
the road meets the Savannah Highway
and the tracks at Adams Run.

When the sun is born in May,
a fragrant broth simmers on the land,
steams, swirls, rises,
draws in more of its own
from the sea next-door.

The day breaks into a boil,
the amnion bursts,
the blood showers in,
blending with the soil,
flows through seen and secret channels,
slides down the ramp to the swamp
and all the varieties of God.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Back in ‘70 the junction had a small
grocery with a post office a pair of
gas pumps and a coke machine.

Next door, a boarding house,
with three floors and ten rooms,
formerly a home for disenfranchised
white boys, looked old enough to be
antebellum, antediluvian.

Mom and dad had big plans for the place:
a home, gospel center,
chiropractic clinic; all under one roof
and two narrow, towering chimneys.

They’d come east to share the Good News
of the New Jerusalem and God’s new plan
in the ancient land
of the unspoiled Blackman.

What they found when they drove up
was a tired old ruin behind its very own
landfill of dispossession,
floors sagging, all the showers
out of order, one working
tub in the attic.

The folks might’ve fixed it up
and still watched it cave in, so
they put it up for sale instead.

Couldn’t really wait around
for the next fool’s money,
so they packed us up and drove us
down the Lowcountry Highway
to watch the earth die,
sprout, and rise before the Lord
found a buyer, not too long
before the fire.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

All the while, back of the house,
hid behind that pinewood screen,
up among the spots of marsh,
was a whispering factory where
men mixed up fertilizer and sold it
to farmers in Bangladesh, Australia,
so as the people there could feed
their babies.

The Green Revolution; real science
solving real problems for real markets.

The boys out back shipped out more
and more nourishment for decades
till someone found the stuff
spiced with lead, cadmium,
and other little surprises.
What they didn’t sell, they bestowed
upon the Jericho soil.

That’s where the rain found it,
flushed the Green Revolution down
through the earth, deeper
than the Hotel Jericho, down
the piney rim to the Caw Caw
murmuring below.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Kerr-McGee Chemical owned and operated the facility from 1962 to 1978, and was also featured in the Karen Silkwood story. Stoller Chemical Company, the corporation that ran the plant later, went bankrupt before any claims could be made against it.

© 2015 Kaweah