Persistent Organic Pollutants

by Tara Willoughby

some poisons, when
you drink them in,
get stored in your

run-off from the wig factory got
into the river so now I
drink and drink and drink it dry
before it reaches the village downstream –
the dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls and
arsenic to taste

all the village people
in their town all neat and tidy
always scurrying, never thinking
always thinking, never dreaming
always dreaming, never knowing
luscious locks blowing in
the breeze coming off the water

that toxic river water
it’s filling up my thighs
and belly and bingo wings like
a glow-in-the-dark fertility symbol
bulging and sloshing
I’m a human dam pushing back
holding up against the weight of
my lot in life

I do what has to be done
I always have done
what had to be done
I did

the real question is, what now?
I’ve got soft warm rolling thighs
full of sweet strong adipose and toxic slime
do I stay tainted, bulbous and glowing
a bright cold reminder
of poisons not forgotten?
or do I melt it down, eat it up,
let it escape into my urine and my blood?

heart racing, dizzy with the reality of
poison running free in the brain
poison twisting up the guts
poison pinching pricking the nerves
was this the right choice?
to choose two years of filling my resourceful body
with bile and venom
just a little each day
burning through kidneys and liver
as it leaves to go
looking for another river?

at least until the next time
when some nuisance
leans on,
finds the wrong button
up at the wig factory
then it starts again
and I will do
what will have to be done
I always do
and it’s never just

Tara Willougby has lived in Canberra for six years with her spouse and their cockatiel, Pooface. She works as a union organiser and is also a Girl Guide leader. Her work has previously been published in ByMePoetry and the anthology Stop Global Street Harassment: Growing Activism around the World.