Comments by Frances Boyle
Part history lesson, part lament, “Deforestation” lingers in the landscapes for which Lyme disease was named, and where it proliferated. Medical disbelief parallels ecological denial. Using cyclical phrasing and red-tinged images, Alessandra Naccarato stunningly weaves together ravages of the body and of the land: “Climate change is within us”.
Coast Salish Territory
It is winter when we decide
to live in the red house by the small lake.
Every time we go to the emergency room
they suggest the mountain, where men
have built a monastery.
Blood is fine, blood is thin
I have a prodigious imagination, endless.
In the red house, you cook fish.
A woman strips by the road and breaks
the ice of the lake to swim.
Summer, a red barn where children
are resting, their knees
the size of moons. Everything is circular: tick-rash,
their small pink mouths, temporary paralysis.
Doctors say their blood is fine,
and many children continue in bed. They cannot say
acorn, kettle. Can’t name their town, soon to be famous
for the vector. Mothers pray
over red cough syrup and the children swell,
pink and dumb, they sleep.
Illinois Mountain Park
Post-war housing, cheap and red. Martha’s backyard
built into the national park, just like
two hundred neighbors. Destroy the forest,
and the apex predators vanish
leaving the disease producers and spreaders free reign.
Contractors ignore ecologists;
ecologists go bankrupt, ad infinitum. Martha’s backyard,
her naked ankles at the foot of one hundred maples.
A dead fox den, white-footed mice and deer ticks.
We may not have created it,
but we sure as hell facilitated the spread.
30,000 new cases a year,
if the disease exists. If it’s not just in her head,
like the CDC suggests. Aseptic meningitis, Martha’s swollen brain
of unknown origin, uninsurable.
Long Point, Lake Erie
It begins on the sandbank, in the red morning
a girl laughing from her tent to swim
with her mother. Begins on Mississauga land,
on vacation, in a girl’s virgin calf.
In this heat, what insect can sleep?
Vector carried north on a warm winter breeze.
Doctors says her blood is fine, just thin,
as she grows into a theory of sick woman.
The re-abled know climate change is within us:
the zoonotic future, bacterial now.
All glaciers melt with mysteries inside.
Coast Salish Territory
It is winter when I watch
my blood pearl into test tubes, in a complex disease office.
My blood will fly to Germany on packs of ice.
This is the last time I will ask a doctor to believe me.
I have driven past the blue-cut fields of this province,
watched deer nudge split ravens, ravenous.
What happened to my body is a quiet acre of sod.
Deforestation. At dawn,
a woman strips by the road to swim.
I watch the ice on the lake give way to her hand.
Alessandra Naccarato is writer living on the Traditional Territory of TWSANEC First Nations (Salt Spring Island, BC). Her work has been widely published and received the 2017 CBC Poetry Prize, and 2015 Bronwen Wallace Award for emerging writers.