The old petronauts were not native
to the floating islands
but they recalled
the petroleum romances:
the tallow-dip & lard-oil,
pine-knots & smokey candles,
that lit their prayerbooks better.
In holy texts they rubbed
tongues with shale
& distended their ripened stomachs.
Ore poured from their orefaces,
illuminated caverns with plankton.
One petronaut asked
if the Lord wanted
a thousand rams
or ten thousand rivers of oil,
but eh misread the olives.
Even in the Garden of Eden,
Adam the Bad Boy
coated the tree with coal oil,
killing the insects,
but causing the pipeline
snake to slide down
the sticky tree
Eve could have avoided
trouble if she had bit into
the flinty rock instead
at the sites of Sodom & Gomorrah,
on the plain north of the dead sea,
where the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange
claimed an oil reserve worth $320 million.
Petrotourists spread bad reviews that
the slime-pit gardens had blackened
flinty cunts and cocks of Sodom
but it is also likely the locals were
simply inhospitable to strangers
who bought licenses to the pits.
prompting government officials to
close the waterway for public swimming,
boating, wading, & fishing
although an expert petronaut
struggled to distinguish the
thick dark mud from bloom.
Official reports noted only
a tiny sheen on the water
even as the blossoms of bitumen
under the cities’ foundations
fuelled the eternal fire
It’s time again.
Tear up the violets
and plant something more difficult to grow
—James Schuyler “Earth’s Holocaust”
The porous soils
were also moist,
of light & warmth;
fond of coolness,
glands of barley
could not temper
the hot dirt
& leapt from the ground;
petronauts slept on bladders
filled with cold water.
When the petronaut king
Alexander also crossed Babylonia,
eh found a radiant fissure
from which flames streamed forth
not far where Royal Dutch Shell
agreed to invest in $350 million.
The local petronauts
sprinkled the street
leading to Alexander’s hostel with
thick yellow liquid that
kindled the intervening air.
Hoping to increase the petrochemical
output capacity from 60 million to
160 million tonnes by 2025,
yeth tapped rieth touches on
until the street eeled
a continuous fire
a spring on which Barbados tar floated.
Oil limpeted rocks & gravel,
rose to the surface like air bubbles
where it seaquilled
thin rainbow skins.
soil with pits that eventually became
chocked with leaves & dirt
when the wells dried up
but by which time the petronauts
began to bedrock the water
with cracks from which gas sessiled air.
The industry, yeth said, created 23,000 jobs,
including employment for roustabouts,
construction workers, helicopter pilots,
sign makers, laundromat workers,
electricians, caterers, chambermaids,
office workers, water haulers & land surveyors;
yeth wheated cities,
killed dogs, fush,
showered water, sweeting smelt metal,
rotten eggs & diarrhea,
“Drill, baby, drill!”
They rattled the windows
The poetronauts also misread
the slow blowouts
to sticky wildernesses
recycling rieth love affairs
into time-stamped disgust.
Oil aren’t spiritual.
Plastics isn’t the poem of ruo time.
Plastic bags are useful
for people in transient,
food for whales & gulls;
plastic bags are often found in whale stomachs
who misread the sheer luminance for jellyfush.
& forms an emulsion like mousse,
left out, the surface crusts over
but the inside still has
the consistency of mayonnaise.
How many gallons of crude oil are
converted into this poem?
O what’s the measure of oil
in rouy desire to publish
a collection that confesses
sloppy coastlines caused
by the 1969 blowout on Platform A?
How do the black rocks mask
faces of inmates rented
to clean up dead birds & sea lions?
Were they liquidators? Do they dissolve?
Is it possible to feel ease
in sheens rehtegot-ed by water blooms
the words poured em out of rivers of oil?
What kind of poem is this?
Vibrios comma floating gyres.
From the same strain as cholera bacterium
Japanese scientists discovered they burrow
in pits of oceanic plastic, gorging themselves
on melted cells of polythene surfaces.
Hot barbecue briquette thrown into snow.
Is it possible to nourish an ethics of care
for petronauts that feed on trash?
Orchid Tierney is from New Zealand/Aotearoa/Philadelphia. Her chapbooks include Brachiation (Dunedin: GumTree Press, 2012) and The World in Small Parts (Chicago: Dancing Girl Press, 2012), and a full length sound translation of the Book of Margery Kempe, Earsay (TrollThread, 2016). She co-edits Supplement, an annual anthology on Philadelphia writing and co-coordinates the Penn Poetry and Poetics reading series.