Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


Lament

north dakota     i’m worried about you
the companies you keep   all these new friends     north dakota
            beyond the boom, beyond the precious resources
                        do you really think they care what becomes of you

north dakota     you used to be the shy one
enchanted secret land loved by only a few     north dakota

when i traveled away and told people i belonged to you     north dakota
           your name rolled awkwardly from their tongues
                       a mouth full of rocks, the name of a foreign country

north dakota     you were the blushing wallflower
the natural beauty, nearly invisible, always on the periphery
north dakota     the least visited state in the union    

now everyone knows your name     north dakota
the blogs and all the papers are talking about you     even 60 minutes

i’m collecting your clippings     north dakota
the pictures of you from space
            the flares of natural gas in your northern corner 
                       like an exploding supernova
                                  a massive city where no city exists
                                               a giant red blight upon the land

and those puncture wounds     north dakota     take care of yourself
the injection sites     I’ve seen them on the maps
four thousand active wells    one every two miles

all your indicators are up     north dakota
            eighteen billion barrels, some estimates say

more oil than we have water to extract
            more oil than we have atmosphere to burn

north dakota     you could run the table right now;
           you could write your own ticket
  
so, how can i tell you this?    north dakota, your politicians
    are co-opted (or cowards or bought-out or honest and thwarted)
        they’re lowering the tax rate for oil companies
        they’re greasing the wheels that need no greasing
        they’re practically giving the water away

north dakota     dear sleeping beauty    please, wake up
they have opened you up and said, come in     take everything
    
        what will become of your sacred places
        what will become of the prairie dog
        the wolf, the wild horses, the eagle
        the meadowlark, the fox, the elk
        the pronghorn sheep, the rare mountain lion
        the roads, the air, the topsoil
        your people, your people
        what will become of the water

north dakota     who will ever be able to live with you
once this is all over     i’m speaking to you now
as one wildcat girl     to another     be careful     north dakota

Credit


From Small Buried Things: Poems (New Rivers Press, 2015) by Debra Marquart. Copyright © 2015 by Debra Marquart. Used with the permission of the author.

Author


Debra Marquart

Debra Marquart is a memoirist, poet, and performing musician. She was appointed as the Poet Laureate of Iowa in 2019. In 2021, she received an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship.

Date Published: 2015-04-09

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/lament-0