Baptism by Fire by V. C. McCabe
-after the 2014 Elk River, WV Chemical Spill/Water Crisis
Cleanliness is truly next to Godliness
here, in West "By God" Virginia—
where coal and chemicals are
worshipped as deities.
Our water source was contaminated
a licorice-scented chemical
used to clean that divine coal.
We are now immaculate!
Holy coals burning so bright—
in our scorched skin,
in our blackened lungs.
We are so blessed!
to breathe at all here in Chemical Valley—
a sunken kingdom crowned
by coal mines and chemical plants.
I once believed
the Golden Ratio was God's fingerprint—
before the chemicals branded my skin
with his cleansing touch.
It's hard to see sacred geometry now,
to feel beyond the pain of betrayal—
that holy fire we drank up
in full, unguarded faith.
V. C. McCabe is an Appalachian poet and music journalist. Her work appears, or is forthcoming, in Poet Lore, Prairie Schooner, The Minnesota Review, Appalachian Heritage, and elsewhere. Her poetry was featured in a fine art and ekphrastic poetry exhibit at the FRANK Art Gallery, North Carolina in March, 2019. She has lived in Ireland, England, and West Virginia, her birthplace and current home. Find her on Twitter.