Fort Jackson, Louisiana, June 28, 2010

by Rosemary Roenfanz

Only when the last tree has been cut down, and the last river has been poisoned,
And the last fish has been caught will we realize money cannot be eaten.

–Cree Indian Prophecy

They arrive. Shaking, covered with reddish-brown
muck–crude oil. Recognizable only by long
bills and pouches. Shivering despite summer’s
heat and humidity. Hypothermic and dehydrated
the vet at Fort Jackson’s Bird Rescue
attends immediate needs. Birds huddle
together, quaking in an 8’x 8’ mesh covered
crate. Not healthy enough for bathing, both brown
and white pelicans gather close, trembling
through the first long 48 hours of
rest, before the stress of bathing begins. Rubber gloved hands
choose the first bird. Plastered feathers are loosened
with canola oil, then shampooed with
Dawn Detergent. Wash cloths, Q-tips and swabs
carefully clean out the pouch. Toothbrushes, soft
sponges and more hands tenderly
scrub huge wings and body as the
pelicans are assembly lined from one tub to
another until clean water proves
absence of oil. Leftover soap rinsed away
with high pressure. Healthy birds
taken to Florida’s east coast–survival chances
multiply. A tragedy of dead cormorants, crabs, turtles
and sea gulls rot in the rust-colored sand. Frozen
carcasses of shell, feathers, muscle and
bone. Gulf of Mexico tides wash in
and out, day after day.

Rosemary Roenfanz is a student of creative writing through Arizona State University West. A native Iowan, she lives in the Phoenix area with her cat, Truman Capote. She is mother of three children and has two grandsons.

Back to Issue Eight: Summer 2010