It Goes Beyond That


Leonard Blachly-Preston, Staff Writer

Note: Leonard wrote this poem to submit to the 2020 Fighting Words Poetry Contest hosted by the Pulitzer Center. The poem is a response to the article “America’s Clean Water Crisis Goes Far Beyond Flint”.

It Goes Beyond That

By Leonard Blachly-Preston


Everyone’s dying,

There is no hope for them, for us,

It goes beyond hope.

Watching, waiting, we have nothing left.

We wait until our sudden deaths.


l hear those types of stories all over—infections, cancers,

There is nothing for them there.

Maybe a puddle of human waste in their backyard,

Maybe a place for them to rot and die,

But it goes beyond that.


The odds are getting worse.

We can no longer hope.

Praying does nothing for them now.

The water acts as a nuclear missile,

                                                        silently poisoning entire cities with lead,

But it goes beyond that.


Trace it down to the hearts of the city,

It goes beyond that.

                          It’s a public-health problem, the root of which varies from place to place—old pipes

But it goes beyond that.


The problem is not what we have to do,

But what we have failed to do already.


They say,

                      The U.S. needs to invest $1 trillion in the next 25 years for upgrades. 

It goes far beyond money,


It is what we are willing to do.


Are we too stuck up to help if it involves

Sticking our hands into what came out of others?


If we stop there, how do we learn where it ends,

And where it begins?


We know that we need to,

This is not how we think,

But how we feel.


Now, in 16 words, tell me how you live like this.

Tell me what you want,

And why it has been kept from you.

Why instead of being “normal,”



                                  Go walking barefoot on soil contaminated by fecal matter


How you are in a living hell,

And yet you live.


How you can say

“We’re all fighting our little fires, and we’re not realizing that the fire is coming from above, and it’s raining down on us.”

When you are dying, and simply becoming part of a pile

A pile that many would not dare to touch,

A private burial in your backyard.


And yet you are alive,

Singing in the wind,

And alive.


We solved Flint,

Thought it was done,

We know we’re not,

In the cold, this makes it hot,


For chemicals are in the lot,

The lot of your backyard.

It goes beyond that.

That one thing,

That becomes more than one thing,

That becomes two things,

Until it comes to you,

And you know that

34% suffer from hookworm.


But no one else does.

It goes beyond me,

Beyond the US,

To the whole world,

And beyond that.


Beyond that of what we see, to that of what we feel,

The pain of life,

Until the pain of death,

And the pain of the hell you live in.


And beyond that.

Work fast, because

                                                                                             The odds are getting worse.