2.5 Months (A New Pair of Lungs Becomes Tired)

February 22, 2018

Dec 2 | boiling frog
I am new to town
waiting here at the bus stop
wearing a respirator mask.

A gaggle of high school boys,
Utah-born-and-bred, presumably,
call out to me:

“What are you wearing that for?”

Don’t they know—
(have their parents, teachers told them?)—
that the air they breathe—so casually—
is poison?

Dec 20 | smog lake city
The bus I ride
takes a high route
through the Avenues. I
can see the inversion
before I taste it.

Step off the bus, nose
wrinkles, wrap my scarf
around my face. The
acrid air—sneaky

slips in around
tight-edged lips, lungs
bursting through my chest. I
wonder whether winter
will always steal my breath.

Jan 14 | new landlord
I ask
my new landlord—
a friendly old hippie,
a native Utahn—
what he thinks of the inversion.

“The inversion
isn’t the problem.”

“The inversion
is natural.”

“It’s the pollution
making us all sick
while the mine operators
get rich.”

Jan 31 | generational trauma
It’s nothing new
for Utahns to tolerate
environmental conditions
harmful to their health,
the health of their children.

The downwinders of Dixie—
disproportionately women—
endured thyroid and breast cancers,
miscarriages, premature death.
Sixty years ago,

the same commission
charged with developing nuclear weapons
was also responsible for
ensuring public health:
an atomic conflict of interest.

Those of us along the Front
ask ourselves thus: will our legislators
protect the profits of the polluters
or the health and lungs, the strength and vigor
of the people?

Feb 15 | memorandum of understanding
If your tolerance stems from ignorance,
it is our duty to educate.
And if your complacency germinates apathy,
it is our duty to agitate.
Be forewarned:
that if your greed proceeds remorselessly,
we will organize.

Sarah Manley earned a BA in Feminist Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is active in a handful of local organizations and projects, most of which fit within the genres of educational access, feminist theory, and disability rights. She moved to Utah for the mountains. b. 1990

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