You can smell it like a snake, from miles away—
this Eden made of benzene, naphthalene
and gasoline. The smokestack garden never
rests; it works through day and night like any
forest does. It turns the blood of earth
into the fuel that makes it sing this dusk
chorus of whistles, bells, and whooshing flame.
You look up, imagining these towers
as tupelo trees that scrape the sky.
All around you, pipelines form a labyrinth,
meandering like streams for endless miles.
The whistle blows like Bachman’s sparrows’ songs,
beckons your return as you slip on
your work boots once again to toil through
the nightshift, promising a world of green.
Suddenly, a flare stack blooms as quickly
as a burst of evening primrose, fills
the sky with something almost beautiful
in vibrant hues of gold and cherry red.
Standing at the gate in awe, you breathe,
tasting the awful cost of paradise.
Katie Katherine Hoerth is the author of four poetry collections: Borderland Mujeres (SFA University Press, 2020, forthcoming) The Lost Chronicles of Slue Foot Sue (Angelina River Press, 2018), Goddess Wears Cowboy Boots (Lamar University Literary Press, 2014), and The Garden Uprooted (Slough Press, 2012). She is the 2015 recipient of the Helen C. Smith Prize for the best book of poetry in Texas and the 2017 Langdon Review Writer in Residence. Her work has been published in numerous literary magazines including Summerset Review, Valparaiso Review, and Southwestern American Literature. In 2017, Katherine joined the English and Modern Language department at Lamar University as an Assistant Professor of creative writing and Editor-in-Chief of Lamar University Literary Press. She is a member of the Texas Institute of Letters and lives near Beaumont.