Scoundrel Time


The woman on the waste site
tour bus wore the kind of bonnet
my grandmother kept in her purse
for emergencies. She squared her shoulders
in front of us, the plastic kerchief knotted to her head
and not a cloud in the sky. Our guide in charge
of “mission safety,” shepherd and sheepdog,
doled out a smooth ribbon of facts for our
consumption, calmly rubbing a copper and silver
magnetic cuff at one wrist as he eyed
his watch on the other. The woman
with the bonnet took her own sweet time,
hunched in her seat at one site, lingering
in the burning glare at the next –
everyone back on the bus and her gaze
still tilted at the blank spots where all her life
had first happened. We ate our obedient sandwiches,
stared at the fields of containment; the gleaming, half-built
glassification plant; chopped up submarine parts
neatly arrayed in a spare lot visible from space,
the tank farms leaking their terrible truth from below.