The women of Mumbai wait
while I turn on the tap.
The water-trucks are late.
I run water for coffee.
They bring plastic jugs.
I wash the dishes.
Sludge seeps down a drain.
I rinse the dishes.
The truck appears,
and I water my hibiscus.
The women charge forward,
reaching for water.
It gushes into my sink.
We cannot grasp it.
It slips between our fingers,
spills, seeps unseen into soil.
The women of Mumbai wait,
debating the cost
of one bottle of water.
I turn off the tap.
Travelers from Eurasia, zebra
mussels litter any Michigan lake.
Tenacious, they attach to stones.
Their offspring dot the bottom.
Sipping and siphoning this fresh
water, they clarify and cleanse it
further, so the sun’s long rays
pierce the depths as never before.
The lake shines and shimmers,
and the snails, bivalves, crayfish,
its ancient inhabitants, vanish,
clarity erasing nutrients.
And in the lake’s depths, algae
forests flourish, thick and luscious,
until they smother themselves,
oxygen-depleted and anaerobic.
The cycle continues spinning,
spawning type-E botulism bacteria,
a toxin delicious to small gobies,
swimming the dying forests.
Until loons, deep lake divers,
snack on the gobies, and sicken,
the cleansing cycle leaving them
along the shore, over the dunes,
thousands of them, sand-bags,
strewn at random, bloated
and broken, young and old,
their impeccable black and white
designs awry, their ghostly cries
Elizabeth Schultz lives in Lawrence, Kansas, following retirement from the English Department of the University of Kansas. She remains committed to writing about the people and the places she loves, including Herman Melville, her mother, and her friends, Kansas wetlands and prairies, Michigan’s Higgins Lake, Japan, where she lived for six years, oceans everywhere. She has published two scholarly books, two books of poetry, a memoir, a collection of short stories, and a collection of essays, and her scholarly and creative work appears in numerous journals and reviews. She is a dedicated advocate for the arts and the environment.