Valerie Stauffer


North Jersey Refinery

North Jersey Refinery #49

Sprawled on its flank in a North Jersey marsh,
the enormous steel beast points
silvery arms above black-ribboned turnpikes, up
up toward the sun.
Roaring and smoking and spewing, it puffs
moist ocher gas—hugging,
then strangling
white fluffs of clouds.

It slurps on its nectar from far desert sands, from the lands
of gallabiyas and turbans and hate, lands sprinkled
with gas-pumping wells of black gold.
Digesting sour crude, this monster then belches
and retches and vomits the rest, shooting
acrid aromas to blanket the state—
the State of the Garden, lush gardens turned taupe,
choking the gasps of small chipmunk and fox.

Tangerine flares from the creature’s fierce snout
glow through the night,
glare through the stars.
Flames of the methane rise high, catch swift tails
of rough winds, rise in the sky,
rise upward toward heaven.
Damp vapors swirl round, forming bubbles and drops,
soon raining down acid, denuding green oaks.