The Spill

The Spill
In 2010, when the Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill exploded and threatened the way of life that Gulf Coast residents know and love, West Florida Literary Federation offered an outlet for expression. During the six months when the uncapped well gushed, and for one year following the successful capping of the well, writers, poets and photographers from across the country sent us their words, thoughts and feelings, thereby providing a literary record of the Deep Water Horizon environmental disaster. Here are the best of the submissions.

Photo Essay

A Tale of Two Beaches: The BP Oil Spill, Before and After

By Cheryl Casey

Cheryl Casey is a photographer based in Pensacola, Florida. She has been capturing first-hand the impact of the BP oil accident on the Gulf Coast.

I am blessed to live in a beautiful area: the western panhandle of the Florida Gulf Coast. Part of our charm is we are not as well-known as the more popular vacation destinations in our state. We “locals” treasure our hidden gem for its snow-white beaches and emerald waters.

As a stock photographer, this idyllic backdrop has been an absolute dream to capture in images. I walk the pristine shorelines of the Gulf of Mexico, shooting rippled sand dunes and wind-blown sea oats with a backdrop of the most amazingly clear water that looks like it’s Photoshopped. When out shooting, I often say to myself, “This is my job… and I get paid for it!”

Then came April 25, 2010.

Reports of the BP oil spill became increasingly dire in the days following that horrific accident that claimed 11 lives in an industry that is vital to our local community. What was initially a feeling of concern shifted to a feeling of worry. As “tarball” and “tar patty” sightings edged closer to our backyard, that worry turned to dread. As the oil spill continued to gush, and was now visible for all to see on live streaming video, it was clear that getting hit was no longer an “if,” but a “when.”

Left: © Cheryl Casey/Shutterstock. Right: © Cheryl Casey/Shutterstock
Left: Pensacola Beach before the oil spill. Right: Oil-covered sand, photographed June 23, 2010.

BP staging areas popped up on our local beaches. My early trips to the shoreline made me think they were possibly misplaced. I saw nothing but gorgeous water, happy beachgoers, and the profound beauty I always found on our shores. The only things “messing up” our shoreline were the skimming ships, responder tents, and bright orange oil boom now snaked across our Gulf waters. I thought, “Well, at least we’re prepared.” Right?

On May 26th, I went to my favorite park, Johnson Beach (part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore) and had a wonderful time shooting the idyllic flip-flop-type photographs that fill my Shutterstock portfolio. As I breathed in the beauty of the Gulf, I lamented that the seashore was deserted despite our summer season being underway. Around-the-clock news reports of the oil disaster, even though well to our west, were scaring away our vacationers.

Just two days later, I saw a different story. Small boats manned with workers in white Hazmat suits were skimming up seawood with nets. You couldn’t see oil, but for the first time it seemed clear that oil must be approaching our shores.

It was surreal to watch. Leisure boats now hired as “Vessels of Opportunity” were manned with white-clad BP workers; it looked like a scene in a science fiction movie, and there I was in my flip-flops with my camera in hand as usual, but no longer was I photographing travel-alluring images… I was documenting a horrible chapter in our Gulf Coast’s history.

Left: Pensacola Beach before the oil spill. Right: Oil-covered sand, photographed June 23, 2010.

The first photos I submitted for editorial were not particularly dramatic, and I didn’t have much of an emotional response to them because there simply wasn’t oil present. BP and the government were facing increased criticism for their response to the crisis, so in our area, the notion lingered that we were witnessing a staged response for public relations purposes.

However, the photos I shot did evoke some odd feelings: I hadn’t captured oil-soaked pelicans or beached dolphins. I had not a single photo of oil. It was interesting to become aware of the “editorial photographer” desire to capture news-worthy photos, but that desire contrasted starkly with the fear I felt for our shores. Adding to the emotional mix was concern that I might be even contributing to the media overhype that was gutting our tourism industry.

Another week passed and by early June, doom was in the air as the beaches became staging grounds for a yet-unseen invasion. Armies of BP workers in neon-colored shirts appeared under tents erected on our beaches. Scores of oil workers interspersed with occasional beachgoers made for interesting editorial photography, but like before, the workers patrolling the shoreline were not picking up much of anything. The beachgoers were probably thinking the same thing I was: Why are you here? Our tourists were scared away but our Pensacola beaches were as beautiful as ever.

Then came June 23rd.

I awoke that morning to news reports of oil washing ashore on Pensacola Beach. Our local authorities, our local media, and I were stunned. The oil was suddenly here and we had no warning! News networks from around the country had been reporting “Live from Pensacola Beach” for weeks about the oil spill, but their background video showed nothing but gorgeous sand and surf. The President even visited Pensacola Beach and there was not a compelling photo op with him either, just photos of him kneeling down and looking at the gorgeous white sand.

So the media left, and then the oil hit.

When I arrived on Pensacola Beach on June 23rd, I was overwhelmed at the degree of oil that had washed ashore so suddenly. I had photographed these beautiful beaches for years and I was in disbelief of what I saw before me: a swath of dark brown oil-stained shoreline as far as the eye could see.

Left: Pensacola Beach before the oil spill. Right: Oil-covered sand, photographed June 23, 2010.

For a sunny summer day, the beach was not crowded with beachgoers, and those that were there stared in disbelief at the black sticky goo splattered over the white sand. Cellphones were whipped out to snap photos. People poked at the oil globs with sticks. Every now and then an ominous voice bellowed over the lifeguard station loudspeaker warning people to “Stay away from the oil… step back from the oil… do not touch the oil.” The army of BP workers deployed on the beach worked silently and slowly in the 90+ degree heat, toting their shovels and bags. It was obvious they were no match for the sticky black disaster lying beneath their bright yellow boots.

Because the beach impact was so unexpected, there wasn’t much “authority” over the cleanup operation yet (the next day, the area was cordoned off and free access was no longer allowed). I was able to approach anything I wanted to photograph with some coordinated help from the Shutterstock team. I shot the workers up close and I was able to stand on the water’s edge to photograph the sticky oil while hopping around, trying to avoid stepping directly into the globs of toxic goo.

Several beachgoers asked me what media outlet I was with, and they expressed frustration that the masses of media were absent now that the oil had finally hit our shores. A woman showed me an oil-soaked crab that was dead on the sugar-white sand. As an editorial photographer, I got momentarily excited: a dead animal – what a great impact shot! But as I was shooting this poor crab fouled with oil, I was jarred… wait a second, how can I be excited to be shooting a dead animal in the midst of a catastrophic environmental disaster? It was a reflective moment, personally and professionally.

© Cheryl Casey/Shutterstock. An oil-stained crab lies dead on oil covered sand.

Similarly, I came across a group of children playing happily in the sand with the dark oil-splattered shoreline behind them. What a contrast – happy kids on oil-soaked beaches – what a great editorial shot! But again, my heart saddened immediately at the reality of what I was photographing.

As I got in my car, I was eager to rush home and submit what I had captured. Beachgoers had said to me, “You’re going to be famous – you’re the only one here documenting this mess!” and I was definitely feeling the adrenaline of what I had just photographed.

Left: Pensacola Beach before the oil spill. Right: Oil-covered sand, photographed June 23, 2010.

But as I crossed the bridge away from Pensacola Beach, that adrenaline waned. Tears flowed as the reality set in that the paradise I knew and loved may now exist only in the photographs I had previously captured.

It is a tale of two beaches. One that once was, and one that may never be again.

Equipment used:

• Nikon D-300s,

• Variety of Nikon/Nikkor glass

You can view Cheryl’s Shutterstock gallery here:



Nirvana No More


Craig Skaggs

Pam and I sold our farm in Tornado, West Virginia, three years ago and launched out upon America to explore and live in our recreational vehicle.  We spent weeks in places like Cape Cod and the ports of Maine and Nantucket.  We toured the mansions of Wilmington and Newport. We retraced the lives of people we hadn’t known existed.  We went to every state museum.  We discovered our ancestors all the way back to the Mayflower and Jamestown.  We watched launches from Cape Canaveral.  We watched moons over Miami. We drank in the Keys.  We felt the America I never dreamed of in history class. 

In our travels, we found Nirvana: a place called Gulf Shores, Alabama. Of all the places that we had spent months in, including Nashville and Savannah, it was the most friendly.  The beaches in Alabama were so white that we felt we were driving through snow drifts as we floated to the dozens of seafood restaurants, many located at marinas that allow boats to dock.  Though Hurricanes Katrina and Ivan devastated the area in 2004-2005, the folks rebuilt – without the fanfare of New Orleans. 

We decided to settle here in Gulf Shores because of the people and lifestyle:  sugar-white sand, emerald water, great weather, superb fishing, dozens of wonderful restaurants.  The people were so nice.  Gulf Shores was the utopia where we would finish our lives.  It was as though we had found a bunch of West Virginians down south on the Gulf of Mexico. We fit right in. 

On April 19, we made an offer on a beautiful home near Mobile Bay.  On April 20, BP and the gang told us that there was going to be no problem because their rig in the Gulf caught fire.  We put the home of our dreams under contract April 22, while BP and the gang said the sinking rig was no problem. 


Now, the government, which should have held BP and other companies to task for poking holes in Mother Earth, has put BP in charge because, as the government says, BP is responsible. Previously, BP had said this epic destruction was unimaginable.  Regulators apparently agreed.  Experts say the Gulf will fill with oil, and the spill eventually may round the Florida Keys and climb the east coast of America.  Say goodbye to seafood and manatees, America.  The economic devastation will be long lived.

As a native West Virginian, I know that the coal and petroleum companies that run our country will destroy us in the mines and in the Gulf of Mexico.  We asked for it, we bought it . . .  Energy.  I ran from the Coal River mine sediment in West Virginia.  I shrank from the coal economy that crushed my grandfather under a coal car. The coal and oil companies (and our government), led by British Petroleum, a foreign company, now have crippled my dreams. 

But more importantly – all those ravaged by Katrina now scream that the oil washing ashore is the end of everything in middle America.  Everything.  We learned nothing, they say, from the Katrina disaster.  Katrina was nothing compared to this mess, they say.  And I’ve never been through a hurricane, so I’m very, very fearful of this oil now. 

I’ll just live here on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and wish for what might have been.  I’ll wait and hope recovery doesn’t come too late for me and mine. It’s a shame Katrina was not a lesson from which we could learn.

Craig Skaggs, who contributed this work and the next, is a retired lobbyist and author of "Deceiving Destiny" a biography of his mother growing up in the mountains of West Virginia during the Great Depression and WWII.  He is a Viet Nam veteran.  Skaggs has been awarded the honor of "Distinguished West Virginian" by that state's governor.  He also received the United Nations Environmental Programme award for his work to end production of chemicals that were destroying the ozone layer. In April he and his wife, Pam, moved to Gulf Shores, Alabama.

We Need New Legs


Craig Skaggs

Just like most “baby boomers,” my favorite movie is "Forest Gump."  The success of the hero of this movie, which marked the history of our baby boomer times, was Forest's success in an Alabama fishing village on the Gulf of Mexico: Bayou La Batre.  He had come there after a promise to his dying comrade in the Vietnam jungle, Bubba, to work as a shrimper there – the hometown of his deceased friend.  A hurricane destroyed all the other shrimp boats, leaving Forest as the only shrimp harvester.  His fortune was made. 

Well, over the past three years of our RV adventure, Pam and I have visited Bayou La Batre several times, always in hopes of getting some really fresh seafood.  But Katrina decimated the fleet and its fishing grounds.  It was recovering, though.  Even though there are no seafood restaurants in the town, the people were hanging on.  Barely. 

After leaving Tornado, West Virginia, to see the United States, Pam and I now are Alabama folks.  I love that Forest was an Alabama boy.

The big scene in the movie was when Captain Dan, Forest’s legless former Vietnam commander, climbed to the crow’s nest on the boat's mast during the hurricane and challenged God, "Do your worst.  Take me.  Take me!"  Forest and Dan survived, and they thrived because they were the only shrimp boat afloat.

Sometimes, I wonder if the reason Pam and I have ended up down here in Gulf Shores, Alabama, near Bayou La Batre, is because we love the story of Forest Gump and his Vietnam survival.  Interestingly, most of the Vietnamese who fled their homeland after the war came to Bayou La Batre.

Bayou La Batre is a channel stretching off into the distance from the main road with hundreds of shrimp/'fishing boats -- really big boats-- docked, mostly with Vietnamese names: Nguyen Free, Ka Saan Shrimper.  Hundreds of Vietnamese who escaped the 1975 surrender of their country came to Bayou La Batre to ply the only trade they knew:  fishing.

So, we destroyed their country.  And the Vietnamese immigrants and their families came to Bayou La Batre and survived Katrina and Ivan, barely, and were recovering.  Now, our hunger for energy has again shattered the lives of these poor people.  We see them every day on local TV down here, heads bowed under the weight of losing their livelihood, fishing, which is all they’ve ever known.  The fishing grounds for Bayou La Batre are closed, and the shrimp are dead or dying.

I remember the last TV news broadcast from Viet Nam after the surrender.  A TV journalist stood in front of an Exxon station and explained that our need for oil had caused the whole conflict. Ironically, surrounding him were Vietnamese riding their bicycles, in droves.

When, my God, will we ever learn?  Now we have destroyed these poor Vietnamese people once more.  Our drive for the riches of oil seems to be driving them from the earth.

I remember the best line from the movie.  Seeing his Best Man arrive for his wedding, a happy Forest Gump exclaimed:  "Captain Dan, you got new legs!"

We need to learn something from this oil crisis in the Gulf.  We don’t need all this oil.  We need new legs.

Craig Skaggs is a retired lobbyist and author of "Deceiving Destiny" a biography of his mother growing up in the mountains of West Virginia during the Great Depression and WWII.  He is a Viet Nam veteran.  Skaggs has been awarded the honor of "Distinguished West Virginian" by that state's governor.  He also received the United Nations Environmental Programme award for his work to end production of chemicals that were destroying the ozone layer. In April he and his wife, Pam, moved to Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Watching the Beach Workers


Philip L. Levin, MD

Nine years ago when I was looking for a new place to live, Mississippi was not high on my list of possibilities.  Yet when I came for my interview at the Mississippi Coast’s one county hospital, I fell in love with the facility, the friendly people, and, most of all, the coast itself.   I drove Beach Boulevard, gazing in awe at the gorgeous stately old mansions north of Beach Boulevard, and the breathtakingly beautiful white sand beaches on the south.  Katrina destroyed the first, and now the oil spill is wrecking the latter.

I’ve been an E.R. doctor for thirty-two years, formerly of Houston and Virginia.  I love the sweet slow pace of South Mississippi where people drive slower than the speed limit just because they’re in no hurry to get anywhere.  I’ve reveled in my condo with its spectacular beach views, my evening walks on empty clean beaches, and the fresh scrumptious seafood.  Yet all this is threatened by the oil spill.  The view from my window now features yellow jacketed sand scrapers, port-a-johns, ugly brown trash dumpsters, and piles of non-degradable bags of sandy oil waste.  The evening walks are now trepidatious paths between rusty slime.  The seafood is unavailable.

In my E.R., cases of oil fume exposures are becoming fairly common.  The other day I treated a sixteen-year-old girl who runs every day at home in Georgia.  Here visiting her father for a week, she hardly made a mile on the beach before suffering an asthma attack, her first such episode in five years.  Oil fumes.

The acute economic effects are seen everywhere, from our overflowing psychiatric unit to the mass of newly uninsured, bewildered at having to come to the E.R. for their medical needs.  These will be long term effects, but as a physician, I’m even more concerned about the long term complications of the oil spill.  Toxic chemicals, such as the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons like Benzene, and the volatile hydrocarbons, such as Hydrogen Sulfide and Methylene Chloride, cause cancer, birth defects, and permanent gastrointestinal and renal damage.  Cognitive damage (trouble thinking) is both an acute and a chronic complication.

I still enjoy my home on the beach, sunny and verdant, with its green lawn leading to the oak and palm tree lined road, across the white sands, to the blue gulf waters stretching to a mirrored horizon.  In the distance the fishing boats and trawlers still tramp across the seas.  And I suppose the squadron of workers and their accessories will be only temporary distractions.  But I know, just as Katrina forever changed the land, the oil will forever change the sea.
Philip L. Levin, MD, serves as President of the 120 member Gulf Coast Writers Association based in Gulfport, MS.  He's authored a mystery novel and children's photo fable, and edited two published anthologies.   With thirty-two years of full time E.R. experience, he travels the world to volunteer as a medical missionary, this year in Kenya.  His short stories and articles have appeared in forty online and print journals.  This year his group sponsors a writers conference;  His website:

The Daydreams of a Believer


Jeannie Zokan

July 8, 2010


It’s been hard to think about anything but the oil spill since the violent wound started gushing this past April.  “Ground Zero” is only one hundred and thirty miles from Pensacola Beach, the beach I can ride my bike to, so it’s not surprising that my mind wanders to the Disaster now and then.  I know it’s on the minds of many, but I’m curious about something.  Is anyone else having fantasies of being the one that caps that leak and brings all the animals to safety?  Or of being the person that finally gets through to Tony Hayward, bringing him to his knees in long overdue remorse?  
I also fantasize that when President Obama or Anderson Cooper visit the coast, they stay with my family, getting a first-hand view of life here.  And I imagine producing an award-winning documentary with local children explaining the effects of the Disaster.  A sunny little eight-year-old would give me a sound bite like, “Sea turtles will be extinct, and they are my second favorite animal.” 
In another dream, Jimmy Buffet uses my lyrics for a new verse in his sweet and poignant song, “Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On,” about Hurricane Katrina.  He’ll sing them when he visits the area, after he takes my family and me out to lunch. Here they are:

The oil came, it washed up on our coast

And it’s so sad, we all just stand and cry,

     On our white shores, stained with coffee tar

       The stuff we had to have just might kill us all.

(Hey, I didn’t say they were good…)

My favorite fantasy, though, is that I convince everyone to believe, together, that the oil spill is stopped and our coast is cleaned up and restored.  Oprah Winfrey said, “What you believe has more power than what you dream or wish or hope for.  You become what you believe.”  After I convince everyone to believe we can find a solution, I’ll sit on Oprah’s couch and she and I will talk about how believing stopped that oil spill. 

I think I daydream about doing big things because I care so deeply and feel so helpless.  The beach is a significant part of my life.  It’s like family, and it’s where I go to play with my children, do some yoga, take a walk, watch the waves roll in, look to the horizon for dolphins, and connect with something much bigger than I am.  I miss the beach, and all I can really do is breathe in, breathe out, and try to believe that it will survive.

Jeannie Zokan has lived on the Gulf Coast since 1992.  Her work has been published in "Emerald Coast Review," "The Hurricane Review," "Islander" and "Navarre News."  She and her husband Chris have two daughters and two dachshunds, and all of them love the beach.


By Andrea Walker

June 22, 2010


Daily I’ve been searching the News Journal for any good news because the current situation is depressing. We are all distressed over the oil in our Gulf. This preventable disaster has cost human life, caused pain and suffering to innocent wildlife, ruined natural habitats and resources, devastated our economy and taken a heavy emotional toll. Its effects will reach far beyond the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. How we deal with it will define us as a community and society. We must not blame beyond its useful purpose, whine, accuse unjustly or lash out. We will be submersed in this issue for years to come, but we must carry on. Life around us has not stopped. On that note I was pleased to read two recent articles I feel deserve comment.

In these weeks of sorrow and times of bad news and ill will, the June 7th article about the recent actions of the Gupta brothers brings encouragement and hope. Nathan and Nick raised money to purchase laptop computers for 20 Take Stock in Children Santa Rosa grads entering college. How wonderful that these young men are willing to use their wherewithal to help others. When we hear of so many who are self-centered, I find it refreshing these accomplished young men can reflect a shining example of what’s good about our community. I hope others of all ages are paying attention.
An article in the June 4th business section about time banks and bartering also caught my attention. The premise is for individual members to trade services we can offer for services we need, from domestic chores to professional services. In an economy with high unemployment, this concept sounds as good as money in the bank. An online search revealed a myriad of helpful websites, so I took the time to check them out. I would like to promote this idea and participate in a time bank, but I am not sure I have the energy to spearhead such an ambitious project. I would love to hear ideas from others and am willing to support and participate. Please check out and feel free to email me.
Somehow the oil spill seems like the end of the world – the needless death, the destruction of so much beauty. Tony Hayward will never get his life back as he knew it. Most of us along the Gulf Coast will not either. Who knows what will happen and how far-reaching the effects will be? It seems incomprehensible. However, one thing this event has done for me is remind me that there are people on this earth fighting worse situations: wars, famine, disease, unthinkable oppression. The magnitude of the oil spill makes me think about things in my life that are not worth being upset about, but it also reminds me, as tragedies often do, of what I have to be thankful for. This personal response may be the only way I can deal with it.
Though prospects look bleak right now, we must go on, celebrate the good news and continue to look for concrete ways to overcome all adversity.

Andrea Walker enjoys writing, teaching part-time at Pensacola State College, walking, swimming and every aspect of nature, especially the beach. She shares her writing in the form of book reviews and viewpoints. She and her husband love spending time with their three children and two grandsons Miles and Nathaniel. "I love to think about angels and hummingbirds," she says.

The Last Swim


Patricia Taylor Edmisten

My husband and I drive across the three mile Pensacola Bay Bridge, traverse Gulf Breeze, cross the bridge over Santa Rosa Sound to Pensacola Beach, drive west to the ranger station at the Gulf Islands National Seashore, and, in fifteen minutes, are sitting on the softest, whitest sand of any beach in the world.

I was reluctant to come, fearful that my thoughts would turn more morbid than they already are, knowing what lurks sixty miles from our shore, but I wanted to see our beach for what could be the last time. The southerly winds are gentle caresses. Entering the water, I descend a steep incline to where the sand flattens out. Then I immerse myself, shivering from the shock of the early May Gulf waters.

Relaxing and warming, I let the gentle waves cradle me. Today the water is tourmaline, as if dyed with crushed Brazilian gems. I stand straight and look out to sea. Stretching out my arms, I pretend to hold back the oily tide that threatens our pristine shores and all the microorganisms that feed the chain of sea creatures that ultimately feeds us. Photos show that the ooze is not black, but a foamy, viscous, rust-colored soup capable of killing all it coats, every coquina, ghost crab, sandpiper, great blue heron and brown pelican.

Now I run my toes over the rippled, fine quartz sand beneath my feet. I see my toes as if through clean glass. The ranger at the gate said there were no plans to protect this nationally “protected” park. All that can be done, she says, is a major clean-up, after the fact, as though that activity were blithely superficial, consisting only of gathering and burying the top layer of sand.

I cup the salt water in my hand, bring it to my mouth, kiss it and say goodbye. My husband waits on the shore with a cold glass of Chardonnay, forbidden on this beach, but who cares?

(The draft of this story was written on May 6, 2010, sixteen days after the BP oil disaster,, which, at this final writing on May16, 2010, continues to gush from a wound one mile under the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.)

Patricia Taylor Edmisten is currently president of the West Florida Literary Federation and is the author of five books, including the most recent, Wild Women with Tender Hearts, that won the National Peace Corps Writers Award for Poetry



Some say he arrived early

in that quiet between time

when color is still washed away,

the soft hum of a well-oiled machine

breaking the silence of the dark,

slipping into town in a limo

with tinted windows dark as night,

the smell of cheap cologne arriving

before the toe of one foot

preceded a shoe with a hole in the sole -

He was a shiny-suited

glad-handing man

having slicked-back coal-black hair

and a pencil-thin mustache

over a cheap smile showing gold teeth -


clearly on the make

and slippery as snake oil,

you know the type -

a fast talking



kinda guy

smoking a stogie as long as your arm,

perhaps in compensation

for lesser endowments -

he carried a bulging suitcase in one hand

and worried a pocketful of change with the other. >


She was the local girl

sun-kissed and sandy-haired,

a natural blonde

with eyes the color of emeralds,

been around the block a time or two

and not so young anymore,

her careless and impulsive way

the perfect mark for a con -

a good-time party girl

rolling over and giving it up to his easy promises

before reading the fine print,

she lived out the consequence

of that foul exchange

as just another sorry sister,


polluted by his essence

with no undoing the coupling -

a deal was a deal for all that,

signed and sealed -

she tried to find him once

but he was long gone,

only a bastard spawn remaining

as reminder that he was ever there -

no one remembered seeing him go

but some folks recalled

that in the dusky hours before dawn

they could hear the receding soft hum

of a well-oiled machine.

Katheryn Holmes © 2010

A transplanted Californian, Katheryn is adjusting to life in the Deep South-one can tell by her frequent use of “y’all” and how high she styles her hair. She is amazed at finding herself with 6 children, 19 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren. Life is a trip.


Liquid quick
and dark like villains,
they haunted depths,
crept into sea shadows
and vomited a plague of vandals
to blacken the breath of the world
in toxic thrusts,
tickle the throats of waves.
A sad surf pants and coughs on
shores forlorn while we catch the small hands
of our children and pull them
from their sandcastles. They weep
oil trickles in thick clots
from their eyelids.
Whitney Egstad
October 2010

Whitney Egstad studies poetry at the University of South Florida and is currently applying to MFA programs. Her work is forthcoming in the Iowa Summer Writing Festival Anthology in 2011, but this is her first online publication. She would like to thank the West Florida Literary Federation's online journal, The Spill, for its creative action and perseverance in maintaining awareness about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. She can be contacted as

Pensacola Beach

you forget--
as feet sink into white sand--
crushed quartz from the Appalachians
carried by the Mississippi
before people walked the land--

you forget--
as emerald waves sparkle the shore--
salty seas travel through oceans
circulated by currents
established since ice age lore.

you forget--
with the cattails swaying--
blown by wind,
the distant hurricanes swirling
near the coast of Africa, waiting.

you forget--
until you can't forget anymore
when your feet disturb unseen horror.

Laurie Hardway

July 4, 2010

Laurie Hardway is originally from Cleveland, Ohio and studied English literature at Hiram College before earning a Master of Arts in Teaching from Kent State University.  While teaching high school English, Laurie has lived in Washington State and Florida and has spent the last three years in Japan. She enjoys spending time with her family, photography, and traveling.  In addition, some of her writing is being submitted to various poetry contests.

Our Loss

I dream of crystal waters wide

Colored blue ‘neath unspoiled sky.

Gentle, peaceful, warm and soothing

With all its sea life ever moving.

Now awake, tears fill my eyes.

I ache because I realize

It’s just a dream and it is gone.

No one but God can know how long.

A Rorschach inkblot fouls our shore,

Threatens bayous, our bays and more

Sea life snuffed with blackened crud.

Our Coastal life can lose its blood.

Now all I hear and visualize

Are saddened souls with wretched cries.

Their tears can never wash away

The damage that’s been done today.

Sheila Grieco of Ocean Springs, MS, is a member of Gulf Coast Writers Association and has had poems and short stories published in The Magnolia Quarterly.  She is also a member of The Mississippi Poetry Society – South Branch and received third prize in a state competition of The Mississippi Poetry Society. She earned an honorable mention in a literary competition by Writers Unlimited for a short story titled The Christmas Caper. She can be contacted at

He Got His Life Back

Tainted Oilman Hayward, geologist-in-chief
Oddly opined amidst deep misery and grief

He said the oil spill would have a modest impact
Did not want the “small people” to over-react.

Yachtsman saw a “tiny” leak in the “big ocean”
Wanted to stop the oil spill, without commotion

Did not grasp the urgency of the Gulf Coast plight
Until the President said you will “make it right”

Then, he agreed the spill caused “massive disruption”
Touched his own life, with a massive interruption

Frustrated Hayward said he wanted his life back
While oil spill victims tried to keep their lives on track

His self-serving words invoked disbelief and wrath
Spread swiftly and portended his demotion path

After facing lawmakers on Capitol Hill
Hayward flew to London for a yacht racing thrill

Gulf Coast residents became extremely upset
They could not relax while the oil was still a threat!

Rebuked and scorned in each befuddled Gulf Coast town
The embattled yachtsman was ordered to stand down

Hayward got his life back, in a timely fashion--
More free days to pursue his yacht racing passion

Cathy Ncube


Oilfall, Promises, Oilcare

Oilfall Unknown

Computer models
Forecast uncertain oilfall
The unknown overwhelms

Footprints and Promises

As he walked and talked
On oily gulf shores, Hayward
Left footprints and promises

Obama Oilcare

Obama Oilcare:
Twenty billion dollars now!
Hayward spewed them out

We Cared, “Small People”

We cared, “small people”
We damaged your Gulf Coast, then
Sent Tony Hayward

Cathy Ncube lives in Pensacola, FL.  She has worked as computer software programmer/analyst, visiting instructor and assistant professor in computer science.  She is married and has three grown children.  She has written short plays/skits/poems for her church and articles for academia.  Cathy enjoys writing poetry based on biblical scriptures, current events, American history, social and international issues. She can be reached at


Lingering on the cusp at or near wits’ end—
Dare I even say it — here we go again!
Day and night, praying to awaken
From another nightmare . . .

The question first was posed
On the various TV news shows—
In the midst of a worsening crisis
As millions of gallons were gushing.

Despite being conflicted
By some sense of sound judgment,
I listened as the pundits opined
With the ease of their expertise
On the volatile nature of a man-made beast—
About which little is truly known.

In the midst of a worsening crises,
Undoubtedly, I was appalled (and still am)
By all that I heard and saw;
And any such contemplation of one
Of any number of frightening scenarios
Renders trepidation logical.

But back to that question (most critical)
That managed to make the morning rounds—
The question that reared its unsightly head
(In the midst of catastrophe, mind you)
With cameras rolling and the world tuned in:

“Is this (the Oil Spill) a gamechanger?”

(dry was the city below the sea
before the levees failed;
tall stood the two towers
before the horrors of 9/11;
pristine was a wilderness
prior to the wreck of the Exxon Valdez)

Whenever I think of the aforementioned question,
I am more than vexed by its implication.
But what is most excruciating —
Much more so than what was asked
Is what was not—
The Question that is screaming still:

Why Must We Have A Gamechanger
In Order To Change The Game?

Robert McGee

For the past 28 years Robert McGee, a native of Clarksdale, Mississippi, has lived in Mobile, Alabama, where he works in a factory.  He is married with two grown children. Collecting old books and writing poems are his favorite hobbies. He has a burgeoning appetite for history and art.


On April 20, 2010 the BP Macondo oil well in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, killing eleven crew members immediately and gushing out of control for many months afterward.

Awake at dawn with black chicory we waded
The piling that tethered the boat and hoisted over
The gunnels. Bobby Magee popped the evinrude,
Puttered us out to drop our nets a dozen
In line in the channel, and in bare light
We barely made the floats on our first run.
He cut the motor 20 feet before
My silent hands underwater on
The cotton cord pulled and set the net.
Then hand over hand I hauled the agony
Of our catch to the surface til three barnacled
Crabs broke, gaping claws snapping
A last gasp of brine. Down the line
A quarter mile and back, two and three crabs
Per net, we filled a hamper and puttered back.

The marsh is soft at dawn, a place of birth,
A fecund lady delicate in an expectant
way, sibling creatures cycling in
And out of her grasses and still water.
Shy and parthenogenic she needs nothing,
Only to be left alone, like heaven, to yield
Her secrets only to the angels with nets and traps
Who have come and gone for generations.

But the Gigolo sells himself by the hour
To politicians trolling for kick-backs,
Johns trading tax breaks, taking turns on their knees.
And he peddles his science as safe.
So the reckoning. Eleven souls in hard hats
Incinerated, instant ash. An ocean
of fish bellied up, as inside out
As the puking well. Pelicans tarred and feathered
Blinking oil black in their eyes.
Another scene in the geocide.*

The lost world. Cacophony of seabirds
In their morning scrum for scraps.
The slap of a tethered skiff in syncopation
With the surf. The strain of oars in the stroke against
The Gulf. The chapel of cypress, branches vested in robes
Of moss, impenetrable in diurnal darkness.
A boiling court bouillon, cayenne bay leaf mustard seed,
Baptizing blue crabs red. And the salt wind,
All the help the seawall needs to stand
Upright a man bowed by the daily dread,

The lost world. Kingdom come and gone.
* self-destruction of the earth

George F. Riess, a graduate of both Tulane and Louisiana State University, practices law in New Orleans, and teaches trial advocacy at Tulane Law School. His poetry has been published online and in The Pioneer, The Louisiana Review and The Magnolia Quarterly. He won first prize in poetry in Gulf Coast Writer’s Association annual writing contest in May, 2010. George’s poetry has evolved over the years from an exercise in personal therapy, following a tragic loss, to emphasis on craft, to an ease and comfort in expression. He can be reached at

Brutal Performance

Broken             “Perfect”
Blowout           Preventer
Billowing           Petroleum
Burning             Profusely

Bodies               Paining
Burning              Peeling
Bleeding             Pleading
Buried                Passing

Blighted             Preserve
Bayous             Profaned
Beaches           Polluted
Biosphere          Poisoned

Banned             Products
Boats              Parked
Businesses       Pinched
Breadwinners   Penniless

Beleaguered    President
Bluntly            Proposed
“Billions          Promptly”
BP                 Provided

British            Petroleum
Blind             Profiteers
Bloody           Pumpers

British           Petroleum
Broke           Permits
Betrayed      Public

Editor’s Note: “Brutal Performance” is by Cathy Ncube, of Pensacola, Florida. This poet has added a new dimension to the poetry experience of The Spill with a variety of poems adhering to unique rules. Please click below to read her haikus, acronym poem and more about her. Cathy enjoys writing poetry based on biblical scriptures, current events, American history, social and international issues.

Black Gold

The Black Gold called — and

treasure hunters searched,

followed maps,

and dug their holes.

The Black Gold gushed — after

treasure hunters found

“X” and dug

the holes deeper.

The Black Gold spilled — when

treasure hunters built

rigs and hired

men to work

and then to die

in pieces in

an oily sea.

The Black Gold spread — and

treasure hunters searched

for tarballs

on Gulf beaches.

The Black Gold dispersed — as

treasure hunters found

a true gold:

nature and sand.

Linda Wasserman

Linda Wasserman, a Pensacola resident, is a local writer and the owner, publisher, and editor of Pelican Press of Pensacola. Over the last several years she has published three books of poetry by Northwest Florida’s former Poet Laureate, Henry Langhorne—The Clarity of Last Things, As Fate Would Have It, and In the Country or Rain, as well as a children’s book by Eileen Mary Wisdom—Harry Meets Mathilda. She can be reached at

an acronym poem by Cathy Ncube


B lundering, selfish, oil drilling profiteers
R isked people, nature and wildlife without fears
ncredibly “safe” rig exploded offshore
T he Deepwater Horizon cracked the seafloor
ndispensable blowout preventer failed
S plattering gallons that could not be curtailed
H orrid violations caused this fatal blast
P olicy corruption left us all aghast
E leven buried in deepwater so cold
T heir lives were more precious than spewing black gold
R escued workers were thankful to be alive--
O vercome with grief for those who did not survive
L awmakers held hearings for cause and for blame
E dgy CEOs denied fault, with no shame
U nparalleled oil spill slowed down life’s pace
M eager recovery plans--senseless disgrace

Cathy Ncube lives in Pensacola , FL.  She has worked as computer software programmer/analyst, visiting instructor and assistant professor in computer science. She is married and has three grown children.  She has written short plays/skits/poems for her church and academia articles.  Cathy enjoys writing poetry based on biblical scriptures, current events, American history, social and international issues. Her email is

Dangerous People
Like wolves* lurking
Below the surface,
Stealthily closing in:
Periscope hums --
Tubes ready --
Bearings adjusted --
Course steady --
Broadside exposed
Where crosshairs intersect . . .

Bomb ticking
In the Gulf:
Extreme pressures
In the earth,
Flammable gas --
A geologic force;
Defective well,
Dangerous people –
Ignition source.
Robert McGee
*reference to the Grey Wolves, U-Boats that Hitler deployed in the North Atlantic

All Is Not Well & Other Unpleasant Realities (Courtesy of BP)

All is not well when the well blows up:
An oil rig can burn for days on end;
Then it can crumble and sink like a brick.

Accident and Negligence are not the same things.
Some people’s lives are expendable.

A blowout is not a leak.
A blowout preventer prevents nothing.
A relief well provides no relief.

Dispersants disperse oil.
Lots of dispersants disperse lots of oil.
Dispersants are toxic.

Solitude is an oily beach.

The equivalent of 207,000,000 gallons
Is roughly 4,900,000 barrels.
A bird caked in crude can’t fly.
A CEO can hop on a plane with a $17,000,000 bonus.
Robert McGee

For the past 28 years Robert McGee, a native of Clarksdale, Mississippi, has lived in Mobile, Alabama, where he works in a factory.  He is married with two grown children. Collecting old books and writing poems are his favorite hobbies. He has a burgeoning appetite for history and art.

Four Haiku

by Cathy C. Ncube

Months of Spilling
April rained petrol
May brought tar balls and oil sheens
June spewed oily heat

Oily Demise
Oil harmed gulf waters
Scared, battered sea creatures fled
To slick shoreline deaths

Oil Spoiled, Fall Waits
Spring days were pleasing
Oil spoiled them and summer weeks
Fall waits for spill news

School, Summer Blues, School
Oil spilled, schools closed soon
Summer Blues, burns, booms, berms, blimps
Well killed, school bells rings

Cathy Ncube lives in Pensacola, FL.  She has worked as computer software programmer/analyst, visiting professor and assistant professor in computer science.  She is married and has three grown children.

But, especially,

I hate “Big Oil.”
I hate them, passionately.
I hate their profits.
I hate their power.
I hate their arrogance.
I hate their very existence.

I hate BP.
I hate them, passionately.
I hate the thought of the people they kill.
I hate the thought of the wildlife they kill.
I hate the thought of the environment they destroy.
I hate the thought of the livelihoods they destroy.
I hate all of the lies they tell.
I hate their very existence.

I hate “Big Oil.”
I hate them, passionately.
I hate their profits, their power, their arrogance.
I hate their very existence.
But, especially,
I hate using their product every time I drive.

Robert McGee

Robert McGee was born and raised in Clarksdale, Mississippi. For the past 28 years he has lived in Mobile, Alabama, where he works in a factory.  He is married with two grown children. Collecting old books and writing poems are his favorite hobbies.

The Blackness Carnivals

The only occurrence in my cognizance is chewing
   Over the harm that has been caused
To this bronzing macrocosm.
   Attorneys, Advocates and Proxies
Shall never transpire to square
Away the muddled monstrosity made
In the liquid drink’s horizon.
   The miasma disgorging,
Evoking preponderance tumult
With hope will soon surmise.

Breanna Henry

Breanna R. Henry of Auburndale, Florida, is a Creative Writing major at The University of South Florida in Tampa. She has no previous publications. This is the first poem she has ever submitted for consideration in a publication.

Mississippi Coast Lament

Building, they keep one eye on the sky
The season is upon them again
The neighborhood is windrowed rubble
Here and there a new house sprouts
Among blasted oaks and concrete steps to nothing
This rebuild is slower than after Camille
Or Frederick -- most have pulled out inland
Forsaking beach views for insurability
A young woman recently apologized to me
For her name: Katrina. Who knew that a name
Could be gutted like a house that survived a tidal surge?
And now a new and cruder storm arises
From subterranean seabed depths -- Black Gold, Texas Tea -- 
Will they all have to move away from there? 


Dinosaurs for many eons ruled
This planet eating from its vegetation
Dying all, they had a transformation
Pooled within the ground they turned to fuel
Carbon storage captured from the sun
For the race of men who think they’re wiser
Punching holes in earth to find a geyser
An industrial revolution had begun
No matter what, sometimes we’re going to spill it
‘Cause wells and ships and pipes will ever fail
We blame the oilmen, at our leaders rail
But when my tank is dry, I want to fill it
Thunder lizards roam the land once more
And leave their oily footprints on our shore.
Garry Breland
Garry Breland is a native Mississippian who spent much of his life out of the south. His day job is academic vice president at William Carey University, in Hattiesburg, MS. He and his wife (a college English teacher) have two children and two grandchildren.

Reaper Screaming in The Gulf

A gentle Zephyr upon the water
Making little caps of white
A sudden rumble from the rig
Then a fireball in the night

People on the bayou slept so sweet
A new season drawing nigh
Little could they even dream
That the stakes would be so high

The reaper was screaming in the Gulf
Calling everybody’s name
Hardship was making its killing list
For things would never be the same

The oil was flowing freely
Futures dying each helpless day
Eyes and ears glued to the tube
To what heartbreak had to say

Everyone was pointing fingers
Blaming the other for the lorn
Fishing families’ eyes had tears
It was their lives being torn

Their government was making promises
Politicians and what they say
But the brown was killing their heritage
Inching closer by the day

They prayed into the heavens
For God to hear their prayer
Then suddenly the well was capped
Now no one seems to care

The cleanup crews are drawing down
And things that have no rhyme
Decisions now that make no sense
Just a lull for death in time

When Jesus started picking his crew
It was fisherman that he chose
And after two thousand years
Fisherman still here, don't ya’ know

No matter decisions made by man
Whether for money or the vote
It will be our Lord and Savior
Who plays the final note.

Mark Bosarge

July 21, 2010 at 5:38PM

Mark Bosage is a direct descendant of the founders of Bayou La Batre, Alabama. His ancestors harvested oysters like the Indians; his family has had a continuous presence in the seafood industry to this day. This includes a shrimp cannery, crab shops, an oyster shucking and steaming operation and ownership of at least 20 large shrimp boats, both steel & wood, between them. In years past the relatives who left to work in other areas would always come back and catch food to survive like the Indians. Mark says that is gone and it is like God has shut a door on his time honored gift; they all pray God will reopen this door. Mark lives in Mobile, Alabama.


Almost three months later, British Petroleum

cautiously says they have capped the leak.

Local comments range from “We’ll see,” to

“We’ve heard that before, and they were wrong.”

We hold our collective breaths:

commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen,

boaters, owners of beachfront property,

lovers of seafood and beach sunsets.

Shrimpers in white rubber boots

who have not hired out as

“vessels of opportunity”

to help man the orange booms or monitor

the waters in the warm Gulf,

sit on their nets, or in bars, wondering how

they will face their hurting wives

and unpaid bills at home.

Chefs have become creative with

what seafood they can get, and

restaurant owners wonder if they

will make payroll one more month.

Beach vendors watch for customers

to rent umbrellas, buy snow balls.

Few come.

Most of us “small people” as the

BP chairman called us, had never heard of

Deepwater Horizon three months ago;

didn’t know how deep BP was drilling

off our coast, were unaware they were

critically inexperienced with disasters like the one

that hit us small people in the face,

sliming our beaches with tar balls.

We read of crab larvae with flecks of oil inside,

see photos of dead pelicans, sea turtles.

We drive down to the beach and watch the booms

that float across the mouths to the bays, marshes,

bayous and harbors, little or no protection

for the millions of gallons of oil already spilled.

Katrina gave us a natural disaster;

BP gave us a man-made disaster;

both are hard to overcome.

Brenda Finnegan

Brenda Brown Finnegan, of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi. She writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction. As the Mississippi Poetry Society’s 2001 Poet of the Year, her poetry chapbook, “Missing Persons,” was published by MPS. After losing their beach-front home to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, she and her husband now reside “up in the woods” on the outskirts of Ocean Springs, Mississippi. She is the proud mother of three and grandmother of six.


spooky poems about death keep spilling
out of me, all these images of unwinding,
of tumbling in surf, of dim, narrow doors,
trembling bridges, strange cities . . .
when what usually draws me
is, say . .  the time it takes
a pecan tree to kick free of earth
the nut carried and buried
by spring freshet just so, and no deer or squirrel
disinters it, and it sprouts through the mould
towards light, forms leaves, bark
nuts and usually i'll make something
from those leaves
maybe compost or mulch
or agonize over the green thousand nuts
killing grass on the back fence
--can i crack them all? bake a pie?--
or maybe, like Uncle Walt
i'd just let them all root deep, deep
in some other soil; i'd like to write
about that dirt, how it teems with tiny
living bits, animalia, microcosms
of the great beast whose breath sounds
everywhere, all the time, if you listen
how even the rot there
is sweet, nutritious, life giving
there is a hole in the world
a gap in the Gulf
and from it spill
spooky poems about death
about drowning, unraveling 
about steep bridges, strange cities
and dim, narrow doors

  Will Watson

        July 15, 2010

Will Watson is Associate Professor of English at the University of Southern Mississippi, Gulf Coast, where he specializes in American Literature. He lives "south of the tracks" in Long Beach, so the Gulf beaches are less than half a mile from his front door. Although northern-born he considers the Mississippi Sound, its adjacent waters and lands his adoptive homeplace. His poetry has appeared in New Laurel Review, Minnesota Review and Labor among other places.


Walking the beach, sun at my back,

Dead sea turtles, shrimp and fish in piles.

The stench of death pervades the air.

Clouds darken the horizon, the wind

picks up, waters swirl, waves carry more

of the dead to shore.  Gulf beaches, once in

their prime, now in their oily grime float the dead,

caked in oil that steadily gushes into the Gulf,

poisoning fish, fowl, flora and families.

BP Oil cries: “Not our fault, don’t

mess with our millions in profits.”

Halliburton threatens: “Not our fault,

don’t touch our profits.”  Transocean

claims: “Not our fault, better not gamble

with our profits.”  “Not as bad as

I thought -- like chocolate milk” claims

one foolhardy local congressman.

Wonder where his profits come from!

“How despicable!” cry fishermen, shrimpers,

boat renters, beachside businesses, those

dependent on the Gulf for their livelihood.

Eleven men dead, beaches ruined,

can’t stop the oil poisoning the Gulf,

wetlands and sea life for decades to come. 

“Come, help us clean up this mess.  But first,

sign here, so we’re not held accountable,”

demands BP.  “Sorry about that,

but don’t touch our profits.  Whatever happens,

don’t touch our profits.”

Judy Davies

June 20, 2010

Judy Davies has lived in Gautier, MS since 1998.  Her poetry and prose has been published in the “Magnolia Quarterly,” “Golden Words Anthology,” “Silver Pieces Anthology,” “Googins Gallery,” and others.  Several poems have been set to music as art songs.  She is a member of the Mississippi Poetry Society-South Branch.  Judy’s book “Window Frames” will be released this fall.  She and her composer husband, Ken, have four children, six grandchildren and two cats.  See her website at


My philosophy is:
If a memory makes me cry,
Delete it. At least, repress it.
I’m trying, but I can’t erase
all my Gulf Coast memories,
not the ones that have been
the barometer of my life, the ones
that should have been a part
of my life forever, never
should have been propelled
by an unnatural force
into the category of
“only a memory.”

Just this spring, the waves
slapped against the pier where
we sat with friends at dusk,
sipping red wine, eating thick
homemade meatloaf sandwiches,
watching the sun set once more,
and knowing life was truly good.
Now green foamy scum
slaps up against the deserted pier.
The sun sets,
but no one watches.

How many week-ends our little
Cal 28 flew through the water
while friends’ children and ours
squealed as the wind lifted the sails
and the boat leaned low over the
clear green sea. In calmer waters,
dolphins swam parallel to the boat,
rolling and leaping, showing off for
a mesmerized audience. How long
will these playful sea creatures
be able to lift their encumbered bodies?
Who will see them sink?

Earlier still in memory, we sit, before
dawn, on a blanket in the white sand
with three bundled-up little girls.
We are drinking coffee and hot chocolate
and eating gritty hard-boiled
Easter eggs while their father
explains the symbolism of
the rising sun, points out the link
between colored eggs
and ancient fertility rituals,
He assures them that
although the sun would set, it would also rise,
how a world with such sparkling beauty
could only prove that peace, love, life after death,
and, most of all, hope for a world without end
would always be there.

Then the oil rolled in with the tide,
washed over such sentimental memories,
such seemingly naïve beliefs, covering
the pristine sand with the black,
sticky stench of death.  No
glimmer of resurrection.  No
edifying symbolism. Just uncertainty
for the future of the Gulf Coast,
for the world we leave our children,
and their children.

Even faith seems inadequate to calm
the fears we can’t deny. How far will
this black menace reach?
Where is hope?
Oh, Lord, let us pray.

Juliet DeMarko

Juliet DeMarko has lived in Pensacola forty-two years. She serves on the West Florida Literary Federation Board of Directors and is currently their poet laureate. Juliet has published two memoir cookbooks and is working on two new books of poetry. Her childhood in the Blue Ridge Mountains and life on the Gulf Coast inspire her work. Postgraduate poetry courses, poetry workshops and writing keep her busy. Juliet’s poems appear in “The Emerald Coast Review”, “Jackson County Writers” (N.C.), and “The Bilingual Review.”


The day melts away …

I don’t notice

As one unhurried hour dissolves into the next


Mowing, laundry, chores

Once – while I hang sheets on the clothesline –

That suspicious smell makes me look up

Creosote – my senses quicken

I remember what lurks offshore.

Pockets of the malodor

invade on the summer breeze

-- a breeze meant to hold only laughter and innocent memories.


Errands, then tea with a friend –

A lazy, languid respite.

A late thunderstorm

Rides in on angry clouds

And bursts of wind threaten tornado.


Air washed fresh and sweet again,

Leaves and grass glisten in the sunset.

Droplets run down green fruit 

That hangs from the miracle tree.

The frogs next door arrange a date in loud excited tones.

They often meet at my place.


Under a starry sky I swim

In the pool, clean and clear

the water slides over my skin like silk

Soothing, caressing

While words float through my head – graceful,

delicate, elusive  -- like butterflies daring to be captured.

I help a wayward frog out of my territory with the net.

As he hops away, I smile at his good fortune while

I mourn the pelicans and turtles that weren’t so lucky.

                                                    Andrea Walker  

                                                       July 7, 2010                          

Andrea Walker enjoys writing, teaching part-time at Pensacola State College, walking, swimming and every aspect of nature, especially the beach. She shares her writing in the form of book reviews and viewpoints. She and her husband love spending time with their three children and two grandsons Miles and Nathaniel. "I love to think about angels and hummingbirds," she says.

“I stood by truth to establish light in the land.”  NERUDA


AUGUST 8, 2005

I stand here speaking

one lone truth.

Politicos, profiteers

get drunk, stoned, laid

celebrating partnership.

Energy policy lifts into law

protecting polluters

amassing billions as they drill

fill an endless list of wants

crayons to cameras, curtains

bandages to boats, deodorant, detergents

lipstick, limousines, loudspeakers.

We stand amid shards

of splintered dreams

slivered hearts

lament emerald water

sparkling sand

salted with our tears

oiled with greed

relentless need for gasoline

plastic bags, golf balls, perfume

credit cards, sunglasses and skis.

Truth is hard, simple, pure.

Convenience is easy, complicated

corrupt as our blackened coast

the kindred politicos and profiteers

who foul our world.

Mary Ann Napoleone, 6/18/10

As a newcomer to the Emerald Coast, Mary Ann Napoleone enjoys belonging to the West Florida Literary Federation.  She has conducted creative writing workshops for many years, taught at the Ohio State University, the University of Toledo and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.  Along with joy and love, anger inspires her poetry.  The BP atrocity provides that impetus.

Black Death

Black Death
Gushes from wounded earth,
Slaughters our fish and fowl,
Our eco-system, our natural beauty,
Threatens our economy, our property values,
Our very way of life.
Silently sabotages our serenity,
Our security, our health.

Viscous, vicious,
Oil spreads through precious waterways
Like a vile marauding cancer that nothing will stop.
As when the promise of chemo and radiation fail,
Hopes rise, plummet, rise, plummet.
We rant, we rail, we tremble,
We weep, we plead, we pray.

We know it’s coming here,
Long before it hits, we know.
Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida.
Colon, liver, lungs, brain.
Relentlessly it spreads,
Inevitably it arrives.

And yet, the reality shocks.
When TV news suddenly shows black gunk
Flung across sugary Pensacola Beach,
I burst into tears,
Explode like Deepwater Horizon.

Explode, just as when Mama died,
After a long struggle to survive.

The mind knows,
Yet the heart is never ready
For such loss.
And, “I told you so” offers no solace.

All we can do is savor
The beauty that remains.
Cherish with deeper appreciation.
Spend quality time before it’s too late.

In the places where oil isn’t visible,
Aren’t the colors especially bright?
Isn’t Beauty even more so
With its moments so marked?

                                Dolly Haik-Adams Berthelot © 2010

Dr. Dolly Berthelot is a veteran writer, editor and writing coach published internationally in magazines, newspapers and books. The former newspaper editor and writing professor is a communication consultant to Fortune 500 firms, organizations and private clients, including other writers and educators. Her focuses on life stories, histories and memoirs. She is author of Pioneer Spirit 76--Smoky Mountain Area BicenTENNial Anthology; PERFECTLY SQUARE--A Fantasy Fable for All Ages; and Taking Control--Creek Roots, Airman Wings, Family Heart.



Short Fiction entries

The Gulf’s Become the Dead Sea


Jessyka D’Souza

July 5, 2010

Last week our wives went down to the office building on State Street. One by one they all made it down there. They sat in the waiting room for hours with the welfare mothers and their grubby children. They had to talk to them grey-haired worker ladies that sit behind them thick plastic walls, the kind that keep the crazies from punching people when they’re told “no.” The ladies behind the wall spoke to our wives in Spanish, thought they were Mexicans. In the end we all got our WIC checks but our wives had been humiliated. They say that WIC isn’t like the welfare, that it’s for working class families and while we might be hard working men there ain’t no work to be had right now. 

We’re all doing whatever we can to get by. It’s been 85 days since the spill into the Gulf, 85 workless days that we all know will only lead to more. That oil company BP, trying to make themselves out to be saints. Doing whatever they can to clear their names, but how ‘bout clearing up the goddamn water? Thousands of us are unemployed, can’t do no fishing in dirty water. BP says we can work for a program they started called Vessels of Opportunity. They say that we’d be useful in helping to skim all that oil from the water. Makes no sense to me. They’re the ones that screwed up and now we’re the ones saving their asses? Really though, we ain’t got many choices and we need paychecks more than we need our pride.

The entire coast is spoiled. It’s not just us here in Florida that have it rough, that’s for certain. We got this buddy called Rick lives over in Louisiana, he brings in blue crabs and oysters, sometimes even crawfish. He was telling us the other day it’s something like 180 some-odd million gallons leaked into our Gulf, just floatin’ there along the surface like bunches of red lily pads strung together, like jellyfish gliding along in unison. It’s an awful sight to be seen and we’re starting to feel like our Gulf’s become the dead sea. Dead for all them creatures of the water and financially dead for us fishermen. Rick works for one of them big name sea food industries, told us once that his company brings in 1/3 of America’s seafood. It’s not just us fishermen being affected by this atrocity, what about all them restaurants and shops that sell our fish? What about all those people that go out after a long work day to their favorite oyster bars? The kind that drive out to those places in their fancy company cars to watch sports and drink vodka lemonades. Them rich kind that have money to spend on things like that, those are the kind that keep us doing our jobs, they call that supply and demand. Now them rich kinds are making their demands and we aint got no supply.    

The lead man in our crew is called James. He was the first one to head down to BP’s claim office, acted as our unofficial spokesman. I can just imagine him telling our story, shifting in his seat uncomfortably. I saw him before he left for the appointment, his hair needed cutting so he had slicked it back to look more presentable, his tie wasn’t hanging straight but at least his shirt was tucked in. James has always been nervous around official people, he doesn’t have a problem with authority just makes him anxious is all. He told us how he’d shifted in his seat and projected his voice as he spoke to the man on the other side of the desk. The man that didn’t have trouble tying his ties in the morning, the man that would file James’s, and the rest of our claims against BP. This was the man that would make the decision on whether or not the cases filed were worthy of compensation.

James told us how the man had chewed on the end of his pencil, did his best to stay awake through James’s long-winded speech. He said that the man had folded close the manila envelope that held James’s documents, said he’d tossed it into a full basket on the corner of his desk and uncrossed his legs in a slow and deliberate manner. The man had waited until the end of the meeting, stood up, held out his hand and only said one thing. “James, we’ll be in touch.”

James told us how he didn’t want to, but that he shook the man’s hand, how he felt a lump of dryness in his throat that wouldn’t allow him to swallow. Told us how he stood there longer than he should have holding that man’s hand in his, tried to conjure up the right words to say while reminding himself that he shouldn’t say anything more. James said that it took a while before he finally loosened his grip on the man’s hand, felt his shoulders slump as he turned away slowly. The last thing James told us was how he had opened the door of the man’s office, paused to consider yet again what he could say. James said he was thinking that surely the man must have a conscience, maybe even children of his own. James held his tongue in the end, hung his head in defeat as he walked out the door. Most of us decided not to step foot in that man’s office, not after hearing how he’d treated James. We know there ain’t no use in it.

Jessyka D’Souza is a student at University of South Florida, expected to graduate in December. Jessyka’s writing focus is screenplays, but she also writes short stories and poetry. Her publications include a news article and photo published last year with GateHouse Media, a photo in the June issue of Outside Magazine that accompanied a story about her recent trip to India, and a script for an informational film by BioQuasar. Jessyka lives in Sarasota with her husband and two babies, Gwendolyn and Rohan.