At the camp cottage on Lake Wawasee
When the night leaned over the water
Where the oil lamps on porches lowed
The DDT truck would rumble by and spray
Bellowing smoke that rose and spread
Over lawns, bushes, cottages, and lake.
We’d race behind it letting the sour-sweet
Odor cast over us, knowing mosquitoes
(If any were left) would never touch us
Because for hundreds of yards not a bee,
A fly, a moth, a spider stirred.
Carcasses for miles. Rachael Carson
With the tumor buried in her breast
Would later tell about the silence
of chickadees, cardinals, robins, blue jays,
and wrens when in 1954 all was just fine.
We could sit on an unscreened porch,
never swat the summer long, never once
wonder what we’d inhaled because the absence
of annoyance, the luxury of it, made us
happy, knowing too that the House
Un-American Committee kept subversives
From bugging us. Nothing, no one
Bothered us with everything designed
For our comfort, security: an assurance
We lived in the nation like us:
Two white boys chasing the sweet
Poison as if nothing could ever,
Would ever, be so much fun
As racing after what was killing us.
Bruce Spang, former Poet Laureate of Portland, is the author of two novels, The Deception of the Thrush and Those Close Beside Me. His most recent collection of poems, All You’ll Derive: A Caregiver’s Journey, was just published. He’s also published four other books of poems, including To the Promised Land Grocery and Boy at the Screen Door (Moon Pie Press) along with several anthologies and several chapbooks. He is the poetry and fiction editor of the Smoky Blue Literary and Arts Magazine. His poems have been published in journals across the United States. He teaches courses in fiction and poetry at Ollie at University of North Carolina in Asheville and lives in Candler, NC with his husband Myles Rightmire and their five dogs, five fish, and thirty birds.