Skip to main content

poetry Poisoned Water

Mississippi poet Philip C. Kolin reminds us of the next imminent global disaster—bad water—and in some places it’s already here.

Poisoned Water

By Philip C. Kolin


Water worldwide is dying of pollution.

A river once used as a kitchen is now a toilet.

A stream that was a playground is a morgue.

Mothers in the Congo walk twelve miles

to bring back a brimming bucket of

If you like this article, please sign up for Snapshot, Portside's daily summary.

(One summary e-mail a day, you can change anytime, and Portside is always free.)

uncertified water, and the trip back is double

that distance. That distance is an inferno

of gnawing air—mosquitoes, fleas, leeches

biting every step.

Dirty water abounds in the Great Lake State.

The rusty-throated children of Flint, MI

have to chew their words, picking toxic

particles out of their mouths after drinking

from the Flint River. All because some portly

bureaucrat forget to get the lead out but now

reclines in infamy, his Brita working nicely.

Foul water from ancient pumps forced

Jackson, MS to be on bottled water support.

A resident remarked that if the water did not

kill you, the chemicals in the hard plastic would.

Our DNA is being flushed away by

burgeoning industrial pollutants.

Sadly, like other countries, America's

arteries have become blighted rivers.

Philip C. Kolin is the Distinguished Professor of English Emeritus and

Editor Emeritus of the Southern Quarterly at the Univ. of Southern Mississippi.

His most recent book of poems is Mapping Trauma: Poems about Black

History (Chicago: Third World Press, 2023).