On Atrazine

Zoë Hitzig

“Well I drank it,” says the scientist
When they ask him what he has
Done with the contaminated
Water. “There is less in the lab’s
Cesspool than you have us
Suck in past our teeth.”

Underneath the dying broadleaf
Between rows of cornstalks
An African dwarf frog
Twists his drying-out tongue
Shakes a webbed foot
In the direction of his pond
Behind the cornfield—
Cannot move, that
Amphibian ambivalence
Mocked by the oocytes
Now in his testes, splitting
Into ovum. Worker #29
Bends down, tender hand
Passing cracked boot to scoop
The thirsty vertebrate onto
The cushion of his palm.
Walks as if on a tightrope
Through the stalks to the pond
To deliver him.

Point-oh-one parts per
Billion castrates the frog
Twenty-four thousand
Parts per billion
And Worker #29 will sleep
In the field—

Zoë Hitzig is a doctoral candidate in economics at Harvard University. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, New Statesman, Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, Colorado Review, and elsewhere.
Originally published:
October 1, 2018


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