I’ve been thinking about the thallium poisoning of quail in southern California. It happened near the turn of the last century. I was not alive and neither were you.
And I’ve been thinking
Love, love, my season
I want to write about the thallium. It’s not a pleasant death, apparently
There is a sickness in the belly and a falling out of hair, a wasting away
We know all this because enough people believed in the miracles of thallium
the sound of the land…the same wind
a substantial data set could be gathered on the effect of thallium poisoning
blowing on the same bare place
on the human body, in a short period of time.
As is typical of these sorts of things
a chemical that turns out to be poison
Don’t let me be
is not a failure but an opportunity
I have an interest in poisons. They break our hidden rules about how things involving the body work. They don’t pierce but they kill. Generally those sorts of deaths involved tremendous abjection, where the body comes outside—a black tongue, lost hair, vomiting, diarrhea, wasting away. The bed, the floor, the tub are filled with what should have remained inside the body.
In the books it is often a sweet clean death
The dead find you are not food
But really we know it isn’t.
the great secret
The quail were never the intended victims, nor were the other birds, nor the rabbits. They were collateral, they too ate the laced grain. What was it was like to walk the fields filled with all of those little dead bodies. Were the walkers appalled? Someone must have been because the program was ended—but maybe it wasn’t the walkers. Maybe it was someone else.
What matters? Perhaps nothing. This story of the thallium is just another thing I’ve had at the back of my mind that in my weaker moments I suspect tells me something about the place and time I’m in. What that something is, I do not know.
It hangs there and I watch it spin.
Quotes are by Claudia Rankine, Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, Wallace Stevens, T. S. Eliot
Debra Blum’s The Poisoner’s Handbook provided the bits of information about Thallium