The Weekly - July 7, 2020 - 27

Field Notes
L Y R I C A L

Sean Hill

B A L L A D S

Dangerous
Goods (Redux)
A poet considers questions of birds and the
hazards of this world. By Sean Hill

T I A T I DW E L L

WHEN MY SON WAS TWO MONTHS

shy of two years old we'd only been
in Georgia just shy of a month.
My wife and son moved me with
across the continental United
States from interior Alaska to
southern Georgia-from one
extreme to almost the other-for
my new job. The small university
town was a couple of hours south
of where I was born and raised-
not too far from my parents and
the rest of my kinfolks.
It was August in South Georgia, and I thought it would be
nice for us to spend time at the
park in our new neighborhood. It
wasn't what I've come to think of
as a kid-friendly park. There no
playsets-no slides, kids' swings,
merry-go-rounds, monkey bars, or
other climbing things. There was a
big pond right in the middle with
an unlikely fountain spraying up
somehow in the middle of it. We
saw a green heron at the water's
edge: it took flight at our approach
and lighted in a tree on the far
side. There were Canada geese-
thirteen of them-feeding off the
near shore, taking turns with
their heads down and their bottoms bobbing up in the air. Seven
mallards-three females and four
males-and a couple of feral white
ducks paddled nearby too.
I sat us on one of the swings
like you usually find on a porch
stationed around that pond. The

white ducks came ashore and
approached us with bold curiosity, suspecting we had food for
them. We didn't. They made my
son nervous with their nearness.
I tried to calm him with engagement. I said things like Look at
their feet; Their webbed feet help
them to swim along the surface
of the water; and This is why we
don't feed wild animals. I wanted
him to know they could be dangerous as I sought to calm him so he
could appreciate them.
*
Dangerous-able or likely to
cause harm or injury and likely to
cause problems or have adverse
consequences-the adjectival form
of "danger" from the Old French
dangier, based on Latin dominus,
"lord." The original sense was
"jurisdiction or power" specifically
"power to harm" hence the current
meaning "able to do harm."
*
The Berkeley Pit was one of the
world's largest open pit mining
operations when it shut down
and the pumps that kept it from
filling up with groundwater were
shut off. It began to fill with
water and that water mixed with
the now exposed materials from
the extractive mining operation
and the result was a toxic turquoise-colored pond. It reminds
me of the beautiful glacial lakes
I've seen in Canada.

*
In that not-large town in South
Georgia a couple of months later,
my family and I went to the
farmer's market downtown. We
saw almost everyone we knew,
and we had a good time meeting new people too. We walked a
new friend-a colleague of mine
from work-to her car, and in
the parking lot she told my son
to be careful in a parking lot
because there is "the potential
for danger." I appreciated her
looking out for his well being, but
I thought and said, "Danger ain't
nothing but potential."
*
"Good" as in "dangerous goods"-
materials, commodities, somehow
hazardous to us when near-
things transported in boxes by
truck, in cargo containers by boat,
in crates by freight train, things
contained, packed, shipped.
*
What's in the truck? The pit? The
pond? The bird? The body? The
Black body? The brown body, the
red body, the yellow body? What's

in the swarthy body? The Irish
body? The other body? What's in
the Other's body? Let's not forget
the woman's and man's body, the
trans changing to always was
and now am sane body. What's
in the bird's body?
*
Inside and out-the separation of
this from that-dangerous is in
placement and proximity and perception. Dangerous begin where?
Dangerous meets good where?
Does dangerous begin for African
Americans where 20 odd Africans
meet the colonists of Virginia in
1619? What is the land of origin?
Where is the bill of lading?
*
What will I tell my son? What will
I tell him about his body in proximity to what dangers?
Sean Hill is the author of two
poetry collections, Dangerous
Goods and Blood Ties & Brown
Liquor. He directs the Minnesota
Northwoods Writers Conference at
Bemidji State University and lives
in Montana. seanhillpoetry.com

OUTDOOR RETAILER SUMMER 2020 / THE WEEKLY 27


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