on the wa(te)r front

Julia Ver Voort

Mama, I smelled iron when I run

down to the wa(te)r front today

something foul like the scent of the cents and the dollars

and all that steel stole from us.

Mama, you’ve gotta believe me,

I heard eerie sounds on Lake Erie

down at the wa(te)r front today

something low like the sound of oars scraping ore.

Mama, go on check the floor by the front door, I’m sure

I tracked in the blackened soul of our city on my soles

when I came home from the wa(te)r front today

some sick sticky thick syrup, like an oil slick.

Mama, in school I learned that water used to burn

back during the war, and it doesn’t anymore

but down at the wa(te)r front today, I swore

I tasted a river flowing fast and full of ash.

I’m not sure whether it’s just the weather

or maybe the war is still ragin’ on that shore

more dyin’ and more dyes in.

Mama, come back down to the wa(te)r front with me

now, before the sunrise, please

‘cause we’ll be mourning something even more

if we wait till morning.

can we go back down to the wa(te)r front

just to see if you feel it, too?

Author Bio

Julia Ver Voort (she/her) is a poet and environmentalist originally from Madison, WI. She is a graduate of Case Western Reserve University, where she received her degree in International Studies and received the Helen B. Sharnoff award for formal poetry in 2020. She proudly resides in Cleveland, OH, dreaming of a green city on a blue lake.