Relentless and unmitigated

by Allie Merola
Purveyors of dramatic declarations of place: 
sit down. I have a proposal for you. Imagine 
the body of America lying face-up, floating, 
her left hand suspended in the Atlantic tide. 
Imagine she lifts her right hand, dripping 
with the frigid Pacific, and presses it onto her 
chest to pledge allegiance. That’s where I’m 
from—“The Heart of it All,” as our license plates 
say—and if you still aren’t compelled, I could tell
you how this enormous, wet hand fell with a force 
and a splash that made the Great Lakes, such is 
her power. I could tell you that the runoff became 
a meandering ribbon of mud called the Olentangy 
river, the most beautiful thing I ever saw, swollen
with the polluted bodies of dead fish and people 
still line up all day to catch them. Now are you 
persuaded? How about this: they built Alum Creek 
basin over a graveyard and flooded the air with water. 
The soil became loose and unsettled. The bodies 
rose to the surface to reintroduce themselves—a panic 
attack disguised as a birthday party—and if you can see 
the image I’m describing, open mouths and stiff hands 
in the water, do you feel a quiver of complicity? To what 
are you accountable if you try to take what you have inherited 
seriously? I mean, in places like this, it’s easy to forget words 
like ecstasy; you have to make it where you can. When I 
saw the ocean for the last time, the blue-gray reminded me 
of my stepmom’s Honda Odyssey minivan, and I haven’t stopped 
laughing since. If you take love seriously, then what?