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When Other Means Fail...

February 10, 2016

Tags: Governor Rick Snyder, Flint, water, how's your water

I know many of you, like me, have been following the unfolding of the Flint, Michigan water debacle with a growing sense of horror. How could the public trust be so flagrantly and continuously betrayed? And the news keeps coming.

It's hard to feel that we citizens have any power at all. But we have our voices. And at times like this, poetry helps me to distill my thoughts.

I was struck by the story of people confronting Michigan Governor Rick Snyder in an Ann Arbor restaurant by shouting, "How's your water? Is it clean?" I was equally struck by the reported silence of others in the restaurant. That silence, it seems to me, is not an emptiness, but something very, very full. There are also the dismissive phrases written by state government staffers: “Apparently it’s going to be a thing now,” and the label "anti-everything."

So here is my poem.


how’s your water governor
is it clean does it clear

your clouded mind we see
you’re a little shy of the questions

and the cameras and Congress
and the city of Flint and

we’re wondering if you’re
okay maybe someone’s told you

if you close your eyes it’s only
a game there’s nobody there but

friends or fellow beneficiaries
or you think you’re the one

who’s invisible drawing a magic
cloak over yourself and ballots

and budget bills and pipelines
and lab samples hide-and-seek

from subpoenas maybe that’s
the game but this isn’t just

a matter of solving a problem
with the pipes governor no it runs

deeper we wonder what you’ve been
drinking to acquire this special

blindness all the people and kids
the brown water the tufts of hair

this noise all the anti-everything
is just us governor who drink water

trying to get your attention
governor trying to shake you

out of this bad bad dream
and another thing this silence

is not nothing that’s people too
listening you’ve got our

attention and yes apparently
this is going to be a thing

governor until you open
your eyes and see us

clear as water



  1. February 12, 2016 11:45 AM EST
    Thank you for your voice. To move by poetry requires insight, talent and courage; to be moved by poetry requires a sensitivity to the world at large and mostly unseen. Apparently to ignore poetry requires nothing more than a majority of votes cast by people as unmoved by poetry as you are... is that the secret of the silent majority?
    - Dave Balcom
  2. February 12, 2016 1:49 PM EST
    Thank you, Dave, for your comment. Good point. Time to start waking up.
    - Teresa Scollon
  3. February 12, 2016 5:14 PM EST
    Such good questions. Send it everywhere.
    - Anne-Marie Oomen
  4. October 31, 2016 11:33 PM EDT
    Hillary should have read your poem in Flint.
    - Polly
  5. November 4, 2016 8:32 AM EDT
    Thank you, Polly. Wouldn't it be nice if the rhetoric of elections included poetry.
    - Teresa Scollon

Selected Works

Poetry Anthology
Anthology of Michigan poets and artists.
A beautiful meditation on grief, memory, and the seasons of life.
Winner of the Michigan Writers Chapbook contest, this chapbook collects persona poems and personal poems to illuminate a world of humor, deep feelings, and strong community.