Fracking: An epic poem

By Bailey Sincox

Preface to Fracking: An Epic Poem

“But man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself.” –Rachel Carson

Marcellus’ story is just that: a story. Building upon the Odyssey, the Aeneid, and the history of epic poetry, Marcellus’ fight for fuel quickly becomes a fight for his life. What’s more, our hero finds himself in a multidisciplinary conversation about the consequences of fracking, both good and bad. The narrative is inherently one of ecology; Marcellus’ (and later, the Athenians’) mistreatment of the earth leads to a literal onslaught of air and water spirits. The combatants discover what ecologists such as Rachel Carson (quoted above) have known for years: all systems are connected. Pollution of one body of water or disturbance of one bit of earth necessarily affects the well being of other people and systems. Within this ecological narrative are the competing voices of two integral perspectives in the fracking debate: economics and politics. Marcellus’ crisis arises out of economic despair much as the American recession and foreign oil dependence speeded the development of hydraulic fracturing technology. Similarly, the Athenians represent the corporate sector. The powerful lords seek to harness the nymphs and to extract maximum profit from the earth. Politics run throughout the narrative in the form of the gods. Though most of the Greek pantheon goes unmentioned, their silence is no less a story. It is well known that the U.S. federal government has granted exemptions to the oil and gas industry, turning a blind eye to the environmental and health effects of fracking. Poseidon particularly interferes in this story, becoming the impetus for drilling, laying incentives along the way for his followers. Finally, the third perspective within the ecological framework may not be easily confined to one discipline. For this reason, I assign the social and medical aspects—the “people factor”— of the conversation to my own discipline, English. Through a literary lens, people, politics, water, earth, economics, and change find their voice. This is a story about fracking.

Fracking: An Epic Poem

Book I: Invocation

Upon this page I hope to explicate

The implications of, per some debate

A certain process[1] which employs the use

Of water, by the gallons millionfold,

And chemicals for the procurement of

The fuel for mens’ endeavors on the Earth.

Myself am neither scientist nor skilled

In politics. I simply will unveil

The fast-approaching face of Future, for

‘Tis time consideration’s given to

Eternal, well as instant benefits

And repercussions of the way we live

And treat our mother, for ‘tis true she holds

Our lives as well as those of verdant trees,

Plants, animals, the oceans, air we breathe—

All life she clutches to her bosom, for

So inextricably they all are linked.[2]

O Muse[3], equip this story with the pow’r

Of prophecy and honest narrative.

Calliope[4], I you entreat to bless

This simple verse with biting truthfulness,

With sharpness like Achilles’ sword to pierce

Men’s oft intentionally deafened ears.

Wherefore did men inherit title here,

And claim aged Gaia vassal to their greed?

Imagined though Marcellus’[5] story is,

Our hero will encounter questions real.

In fiction may we grapple with the vast

Unknowns, which plague the world in which we find

Ourselves, and, in the realm of fancy, grasp

The truths that live within our very minds.[6]

 

Book II: The Goatherd’s Tale

Marcellus’s story starts in our own time

In place not far removed from where you live,

Dear Reader. He was young, not more than two

Score years, and stronger than an elephant.

In battle had Marcellus proved himself

More times than not. For certain he was no

Unerring knight, but tried as best he could

To honor other people and do right.

Our hero had inherited estate

Not three years since; his seat a country farm[7]

With herds of cows and horses grazing there.

The cows his living earned through milk and meat.

The eggs of chickens, too, Marcellus sold,

Along with crops that Ceres[8] did see fit

With which to grace the fields of Ithaca.[9]

For on that isle did our Marcellus live,

The isle that once was ruled by most beloved

Odysseus, but his days now were past

And th’island had no king, but tried a new-

Born system called “democracy,”[10] that was

Imported straight from Athens and in place

For but a decade at Marcellus’ birth.

 

The lad had worked his father’s land for years:

In childhood, youth, and now as owner of’t.

The earth was tired. Crops were lacking in

His fields and now the cows produced no milk.

Marcellus’ clothes were tattered and his purse

Was empty. Morning dawned one day

Upon our hero’s farm, and likewise then

Did realization dawn upon his mind:

That his reserves had dwindled and he owed

Much more than he was apt to make in years.[11]

On this most dark of days Marcel resolved

To tender forth the only things he kept—

His sword and shield, those complements in war—

To sell at local market for a sum.[12]

 

Marcellus gathered up his battle gear

And set off down the road toward the mart.

But ere he reached his destination straight,

He came across a traveller on the road.

Attiréd in Arabian[13] garb was he,

Not rich, no sultan, but a goatherder

Who bore but one small pack upon his back.

“Good friend,” quoth he, “wherefore go you to war?”

He nodded to Marcellus’ sword and shield,

The latter strapped, as like to combat one

Would wear’t, astride the hero’s arm.

“My comrade,” spoke Marcellus, “Not to war,

But rather to the mart I journey forth.

My sword and shield methinks I must lay down

In favor of the sustenance I crave;

My farm you see is dead and can’t produce

The bread I need to eat or milk to drink.

I’m poor, my friend, and though I hear the call

To battle that doth hearken to each man

In Ithaca, I must forgo that call.

For life, dear friend, ‘sthe dearest call of all.”

 

The goatherd smiled and shifted o’er his pack

Unto his other shoulder, then he spoke:

“Marcellus. Dost thou know no other path

But this of laying down your blessed life?

Of Ithaca, methinks you see I am

Not born; but rather from Araby hence.

And in my land I’ve learned a secret trade,

A trade, methinks, that has the pow’r to save

You, good lad, your farm, and—yes!—your life.

I see you drawing closer, may I share

The art arcane[14] that I am privy to?”

 

Then eagerly Marcellus shook his head,

But looking in his eyes, Marcellus saw

Not the orbs of god-made man therein,

But rather waves—blue, foamy, stormy seas—

That roiled and broiled within the ground of white.

The deepest depths of th’ocean could he see

By looking in the eyes of his new friend.

Therefore Marcellus knew he was no man,

But rather god: Poseidon[15] now was here

In guise of goatherd[16] but no less the lord

Of th’ocean, seas, and rivers of the earth.

What had the hero done to earn his glance?

But yet Marcellus knew it was no small

Thing, speaking to a true Olympian.

 

“Now look—” Poseidon said and threw

His hand out, gesturing toward the land,

“These bands of earthen grey[17] have harbored here

For centuries and centuries a vast,

Unknown reserve of pow’r that now can change

Your circumstance, Marcellus, for your good.”

He indicated rock that towered high,

Projecting into sky, and formed a ridge

Around the lake, adjacent to the farm.

 

“Within these layers, there hast been preserved[18]

A race of spirits, Titan-born, and there

Imprisoned for their opposition to

The gods. My brother Zeus them froze within

The rock, cursed for eternity to lay

In wait for someone, such as us, to loose

Their chains and then become their sovereign lord.

If we these sprites do free, Marcellus, lad,

You will become commander of their ways.

Your newfound slaves can labor at your farm

And tender forth a greater crop than you

Alone. Just speak the word, my friend, and I

Will conjure forth these sprites and make you free,

Nay, I’ll return you to the agency of sword

And shield, and give your manhood back.”[19]

 

“Can I control this great, unbridled pow’r,

These spirits that I have no knowledge of?

What man can tell what consequences may

Arise from my most well-intentioned deed?”

 

“My friend,” replied the sovereign of the brine

As ocean tempests swirled within his eyne,

“Your pow’r will be as mine own mighty hand.”

Marcellus then consented to the plan.

 

Book III: The Rape of Gaia

His sultan garb dissolved, Poseidon stood

Triumphant in his awful, godly pow’r.

Poseidon roared and raised his hands above

His head; and beckoning to heaven he

Proclaimed, “My nymphs! Come now, up from the seas

And rivers by the millions, all of ye,

To do your master’s bidding in this place!”

With gleam of mania within his eye,

Poseidon howled a strange and wolf-like cry.

 

Within an instant, rumbles shook the earth.

Marcellus’ eyes grew wide as soon he heard

The fast-approaching pattering of feet

Accompanied by shadows on the far

Horizon: soon the shadows took the shape

Of three or four odd million water nymphs[20]

Parading, marching, nay—stampeding! —forth.

Obeying Neptune’s call upon the earth.

 

The sea god waved his trident in the air,

The nymphs were standing ready for his call.

“My minions,” he addressed the waiting horde,

“Within this rock are certain airy sprites

Which you, by penetrating down between the cracks

Of earth, may free into the heav’nly realm.

What ho, my spirits? Are you able to

Perform the task which you are asked to do?”

The blue-skinned, slimy spirits nodded “yes,”

Their dripping, bluish hair and webbed feet

Creating contrast stark with dusty rock.

 

Surveying there his army verily,

Poseidon raised his trident once again.

His booming voice he lowered to a hum,

A gentle whisper none could understand.

Six hundred[21] strange and near inaudible

Spell-words he murmured, inundating th’air

With solemn, ominous and alien

Faint music, then the nymphs began to change.

Their blue-tinged skin became a mottled brown,

Their frail amphibious hide was covered by

A rapid growth of thick and horned scales[22];

The midnight blue of hair was overgrown

By black and greasy locks there sprouting forth.

But worst of all, the eyes—their eyes did turn

From ocean blue and full of purest light

To evil, blood-red, bloodshot slits of hate.

Converted by the sea god’s art, the nymphs

With slobbering and howls of heinous glee,

Began to dislodge rocks, and suddenly

A second horde of minions did appear:

A cohort squat and square, with axe and pick

In hand, red pointy hats upon their heads.

For gnomes they were, those grimy sons of earth

Who live in caves and scarcely see the light

Of day. One hundred forty gnomes were there

Assembled with a gnashing of their teeth

And swinging picks. Poseidon then

Them called: “My gnomes, prepare the way for these

Your brothers of the watery depths of seas.”

 

Without another word the gnomes did raise

Their tools, and with one loud, ear-popping crack,

Let fall upon the rock synchronized blows

And soon they opened up a gaping hole

There in the earth. The god Hephaestus[23] had

Them gifted with a strange obscene device:

A metal chute which tiny hands could line

The tunnel walls which now so quickly grew,[24]

Stretching tens of thousands meters down

Into the earth, the gnomes still hard at work.

With metal now they lined their chasm deep,

And beckoned to the nymphs—it was complete.[25]

 

With flash of pointed teeth, the chattr’ing nymphs

Did by the millions rush forth to the mouth

Of that new chasm formed by gnomic hands.

As nymph by nymph they poured into the pipe,

Marcellus wept, for surely now the plight

Of his dear farm was grave, more grave than e’er.

Then body after body clamored in;

So penetrating deep in Gaia’s womb.

But at pipe’s end they had no place to go;

Their scintillating nymphish bodies trapped.

But as the millions gathered in the earth,

Their bodies split[26] the ground and fashioned ways

For them to creep and crawl within the rock,

The deafening, sharp crack of Gaia’s flesh

Did echo in that land; ‘twas heard for miles.

 

Within the ground the nymphs encountered there

A band of cousins to their kind: the sylphs[27],

Strange sprites of air who long to reach the sky,

Confined as Neptune said in earthen tomb.

With passages now oped, the sylphs all screamed,

And all the hissing sprites erupted forth.

 

And bursting into light, Marcellus saw

Transparent bodies shimmering with pow’r

Now hundreds, nay, now thousands in the sky,

Sans any sign of deference to him.

Had Neptune to him lied? It could not be!

But now the sea-god laughed as at his side

Appeared bold Ares[28], spear within his hand

And sneer of laughter curling up his lip.

The pair of gods, the sylphs above and ‘low

Sea-nymphs in th’earth—Marcellus was o’erpowered,

Defenseless to Olympians unjust.

Our hero drew his sword; prepared to fend–

In desperation and futility–

Off threats perceived within his ancient home.

Aged Gaia groaned, her sacred body wrecked.[29]

 

Book IV: The Final Battle

The rumbles of the earth were heard around

The countryside; ere long Marcellus found

Himself in company of many men

And women with concern on every face.

The company, assembled for a fray,

Had shields on arm and swords already bared.

 

Aswirl among the crowds the nasty sylphs

Began to cackle, and a misty fog[30]

Descended on the cohort on the ground.

“My friends,” Marcellus yelled above the sound

Of hissing, steaming gas the sylphs did spew,

“I know the rumbles have alarmed you all—

Protection of our home is like your goal—

But, good my friends, your swords please sheath again.

There is no reason to do battle here.”

 

“What happened, man?” a lanky warrior asked,

“Wherefore doth cloud the sky, and shake the earth?

Some evil is afoot, the gods’ feared wrath!”

Marcellus sighed and shook his weary head.

“Dear comrade, with Poseidon have I made

A deal in hopes to salvage mine own farm.

The sea god promised laborers who’d work

My land and bring me out of poverty.

Poseidon promised power over strange,

Corrupted nymphs, but now they and their kin

Have overtaken earth and sky alike,

They flit above our heads, below our feet

Their brothers plummet deep into the earth.

Ho! Join me, brothers, at the sea god’s feet

In praying he’ll remove this horde of fiends.

I do entreat you not to draw on me;

Direct your sword at our true enemies,

The nymphs and sylphs who bode catastrophe.”

 

The gathered men looked each at other, then

One man of Athens conferenced with his men

And raised his voice to loud address the group.

“Methinks these nymphs do hold the promise of

A pow’r of yet not realized by him,

(He pointed at Marcellus) for you see

Poseidon is not one to make false deals;

Methinks a stronger hero could enslave

These spirits, and them force to do his will,

Their magic truly harness and become

The lord of Ithaca—or all the world!”[31]

 

The gathered men of Athens’ minds were keen;

Their heads did bob and eyes did gleam with greed.

The men draw close in conference, and then

An arrow through the air did zoom, and strike

The leader of the large Athenian tribe.[32]

He crumpled to the ground, as dead as dirt.

An angry cry then rippled through his friends;

They searched the mob for he who let it fly.

“’Twas me,” a gentle hum of voice announced.

Emerging from the crowd of bodies thick

There was a votaress of Diana’s[33] cult.

“Good lords,” said she, with slow advancing stride,

“Do not disturb the earth again, for so

Methinks: the earth can take no more of this,

The ground is shaking; spirits fill the air—

Let’s lay to rest forever this dark art,

And beg Poseidon’s help to end the strife.”

 

“My lady,” leered a lord of Athens next,

“These sprites can make us rich, can give us pow’r,

Methinks we can’t ignore such opportune

And ready-waiting sources of new wealth.”

The lord, with gesture to his friends, began

To fold his hands and lift his eyes

To heaven, and in booming voice he cried

“Poseidon! Give me power o’er these nymphs!

Bring forth new horde to answer to my will,

To plunge into the earth and to awake

The sylphs who hover o’er us even now!”

The ground began to rumble once again

As tiny nymphs, alike to those Marcellus

Saw but three short hours hence.

 

“I cannot let this be!” the votaress[34] cried,

And she with all her ladies charged the horde

Of Athens that now oversaw the new

Rapacious plunging nymphs in Gaia’s womb.

But e’er she reached the man, she was struck down,

A peasant’s axe deep lodged within her breast.

A bumbling crowd of peasants[35] had there stood

And heard the argument of higher class,

But without words they formed a circle ‘round

The men of Athens working on the pipe,

For they were poor with scarcely bread to eat,

And money was their object in this fray.

 

A fight ensued betwixt the men below,

And in the sky the gods did chuckle so.[36]

For mortals ask for blessings without thought

For consequences, or the greater good.

The gods decided not to intervene—[37]

Though they so oft were wont to place their hands

Into the battles of their mortal friends.

Although their custom cause was to prevent

The violence and desecration of

Their people and their planet, this they thought

Exception ought to be, for Neptune was

Distracted by the new prayers offered up,

The power and prestige was brought to him—

No less than eighteen cries[38] for nymphly pow’r

Were lifted to his name by Athens’ men.

Some hundred million nymphs were in the earth,

Some ‘scaping now to plague the heroes who

Distracted were with battling their foes;

With eyes upon the crack in Gaia, they

Did miss th’approaching nymphs who now began

To choke the heros. Many fell to death

From these surprising foes, and in the sky

The sylphs began to rain down misty fog

Which clouded vision for the men below.

And all did cough,[39] beginning now to feel

Quite sick indeed, and men laid down their swords

To writhe upon the ground in agony

From poison gas within their very lungs,

And wat’ry hands of nymphs about their necks.[40]

 

Aged Gaia groaned, unable now to bear

The company within her earthen bowels.

She vomited, the goddess hurling up

Both rock, and nymph, and gnome, whatever else

Was in her stomach, aggravating her.

The vilest earthquake that was ever seen[41]

Did shake the ground and swallow up a few

In battle, then they plummeted to death.

 

Emerging from the dust, Marcellus prayed,

“Poseidon, we relinquish our control

Of all the nymphs and sylphs which—folly!—I

Did ask of you for my own selfish gain.
We beg your aid, good Neptune, take them now!

We’ll seek them not again, but rather

New and safer, earthlier device

To aid in our endeavors here below.”

 

The nymphs dissolved, the earth came to a still;

Some living men emerged from all the dead.

Survivors now were left to bury them,

And from this lesson to begin again.[42]

 

Bailey-Sincox1-220x310Bailey Sincox is graduating senior at Duke University who wrote the above epic poem as part of her course at Duke called  “Water in a Changing World” this spring semester.  She studied English and Theater Studies and participated in the DukeEngage Colombia program in Medellín in the summer of 2013. Inspired by the impact of Proyecto Boston-Medellín, Bailey proposed that the venture extend to her home university.

 

Works Cited in the poem:

Dong, Linda. “The Dangers of Fracking.” Marcellus Shale Coalition, 2012. Web.

Gasland. Dir. Josh Fox. New Video Group, 2010. Film.

“Hearing before the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the United States Senate, One Hundred and Twelfth Congress, first session to examine the Marcellus Shale gas development and production in West Virginia.” U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington, D.C., 2012. Web.

McGraw, Seamus. “Is Fracking Safe?” Popular Mechanics, 2012. Web.

Osborn, Stephen G, et al. “Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 14 April 2011. Web.

Urban, Dean, and Laurie Patton. “Water in a Changing World Syllabus.” Duke University: Durham, NC, 2013. Web.

Wald, Priscilla. “Water Stories.” Duke University, 9 April 2013.

Warner, Nathaniel R., et al. “Geochemical evidence for possible natural migration of Marcellus Formation brine to shallow aquifers in Pennsylvania.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 10 May 2012. Web.

Wilber, Tom. Under the Surface: Fracking, Fortunes, and the Fate of the Marcellus Shale. Cornell UP: Ithaca, NY, 2012. Web.

[1] Fracking. The word “fracking,” the accepted slang or shortening for “hydraulic fracturing,” will not appear in the verse of this poem. Rather, its implications for people and systems will be holistically explored sans what may be termed loaded language. This approach is in keeping with the mission of the University Course (or, as Dean Laurie Patton would say, the Multiversity Course). As Professor Urban wrote in the syllabus for the course:

The focus of this course is on water and change. The storyline begins with various perspectives on water and cultural identity from the viewpoints of history, religion, and art. The story then moves to water and the roles it plays in various systems (natural, socioeconomic, urban). These sessions will consider competing demands on water in a changing world and how change propagates through systems. Finally, the course turns to  change itself: decision-making under uncertainty and how we adapt to change more generally (Urban 2013).

The focus of Fracking: An Epic Poem, though “fracking” appears in the title, is to explore the role of water in fracking, in economics, in politics, and in all the spheres that interact on this issue.

[2] As Rachel Carson wrote in Silent Spring. As quoted by Priscilla Wald in her lecture to the University Course, 9 April 2013.

[3] This apostrophe to the Muse is known as the “invocation,” a trope of classical epic poems.

[4] Calliope is the Greek muse of epic poetry. Her blessing is invoked at the beginning of Homer’s Odyssey.

[5] Marcellus is named for the Marcellus Shale, a deposit of Devonian sediment lying beneath West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, and parts of Ohio. Extraction of natural resources from the shale has been the subject of much debate in recent years. The Senate’s Committee on Energy and Natural Resources heard a petition against hydraulic fracturing in the region on November 14, 2011. “Hearing before the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the United States Senate, One Hundred and Twelfth Congress, first session to examine the Marcellus Shale gas development and production in West Virginia.” U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington, D.C., 2012. Web.

[6] “…we can change the stories we tell about water and, in so doing, we can change the world”(Wald).

[7] The Marcellus Shale outcrops in Marcellus Village, New York, near Lake Cayuga. That terrain serves as the inspiration for this description of Marcellus’ farm. Wilber, Tom. Under the Surface: Fracking, Fortunes, and the Fate of the Marcellus Shale. Cornell UP: Ithaca, NY, 2012. Web. 3.

[8] Ceres is the Roman goddess of agriculture and harvest.

[9] The name “Ithaca” holds a double meaning. It is, of course, Odysseus’ kingdom in Homer’s Odyssey. It is also the name of a town in New York, about one hour south of Marcellus. It sits above the Marcellus shale, and so is equally implicated in the study of this poem. The town is home to Cornell University.

[10] Despite the democracy of Ithaca, the gods intervene in the action of this story, becoming tyrants who overlook the interests of their earthly followers. Compare with U.S. federal government fracking policy.

[11] Marcellus’ dire financial situation alludes to the American economic crisis of recent years. The national debt (along with tensions in the middle east) and need for domestic production to revitalize the US economy prompted a divorce from foreign oil sources. These factors were a major impetus for the development of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies (Wilber 2).

[12] This is not to suggest that the US federal government planned a reduction in national defense spending that was waylaid by advances in fracking technologies.

[13] This reference to the Middle East, heart of global oil production, need hardly be explained. Saudi Arabia was the world’s greatest oil producer in 2012. McGraw, Seamus. “Is Fracking Safe?” Popular Mechanics, 2012. Web.

[14] Fracking is, of course, not inherently evil. The purpose of this poem is not to condemn fracking, but to present a story in which fracking has gone wrong. This story is part of a greater narrative on fracking. “For, in telling our story, we always necessarily silence all the other stories”(Wald).

[15] Poseidon is the Greek deity of the ocean. He is one of the twelve Olympians, the gods enthroned in the heavenly mountain, and one of the sons of Chronos who overthrew the Titan reign on Earth. Along with Zeus (god of heaven) and Hades (god of the underworld), Poseidon is member of the great triumvirate of all-powerful gods. He is the personification of the sea, commander of nymphs (water spirits), creator of storms, and the enemy of Odysseus in Homer’s epic.

[16] The appearance of the gods to epic heroes is an old tradition. (E.g., Athena appears to Telemachus in the guise of his father’s counselor in Book II of The Odyssey, and Aeneas’ mother Aphrodite appears to him in various forms throughout The Aeneid).

[17] This geologic description of Marcellus’ farm is based on the appearance of the Marcellus Shale outcroppings near Cayuga Lake, NY (Wilber 2).

[18] The layers of “compressed sea of silt, clay, and carbon” contain millions of years of organic material (Wilber 2). The spirits represent the energy (i.e., the natural gas) contained within the stratification.

[19] Poseidon offers Marcellus energy, economic agency, ownership and cultivation of domestic resources, and independence from foreign aid. These incentives are the very same that drew the United States Federal Government to develop hydraulic fracturing technologies. When, in 2008, Terry Engelder, geologist at Yale University, announced he foresaw “500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Marcellus alone, enough to meet U.S. needs for decades”(Wilber 3). His findings “caught the attention of industry executives, investors, and the media at a time when U.S dependence on foreign oil was again a political issue”(Wilber 3).

[20] Each fracking venture uses between one and nine million gallons of water. Each well can be fracked eighteen times. The frightening army of nymphs represents the astonishing amount of water used for hydraulic fracturing (Gasland).

[21] The process of creating the solution used in hydraulic fracturing is portrayed here by Poseidon’s magic worked on the nymphs. The nymphs, pure water spirits, are converted to evil nymphs by Poseidon’s spell; the 600 words signify the up to 600 chemicals used in fracking fluid. The words are secret and unintelligible because the formula is considered “proprietary,” and therefore not subject to examination by the government under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, or Safe Drinking Water Act (Gasland).

[22] Many of the ingredients of fracking that are known are extremely dangerous. Dr. Theo Colborn, Colorado congresswoman and winner of five Rachel Carson awards, has uncovered known carcinogens such as lead, mercury, uranium, formaldehyde, methanol, and radium through extensive research (Gasland).

[23] Hephaestus is the Greek god of the forge. His guidance represents the presence of industry.

[24] Fracture fluid is pressure injected into the underground pipeline. Dong, Linda. “The Dangers of Fracking.” Marcellus Shale Coalition, 2012. Web.

[25] The gnomes have constructed a crude simulacrum of a fracking pipeline. Such metal conduits probe tens of thousands of meters into the earth. Water and fracking fluid (approximately 8 million gallons) are then pumped into the well (Gasland).

[26] At the end of the well, the pressure and corrosive chemicals cause the ground to split, or fracture. This widens the paths for the chemicals to reach the oil shale (McGraw).

[27] Sylphs are air-nymphs. Paracelsus essentially invented them, but they have a long history in the Greco-Roman epic tradition. The sylphs in this poem represent the natural gas extracted by fracking.

[28] Ares is the Greek god of war.

[29] The injury of mother earth, Gaia, is the result of unsound and unsustainable use of natural resources. Within Greek mythology, Gaia seldom appears in the action of legends or stories. She is more of a concept than a character. Her appearance here is a testament to the power humans have now through technology not available to the ancient Greeks. We are capable of impacting ancient and eternal Earth. It remains to be seen how we will manage that responsibility.

[30] Methane and other toxic gases are released in the fracking process. Additionally, fracking fluid and “produced water,” a by-product of fracking, are left in the sun to evaporate. This releases “VOCs,” or volatile organic compounds, into the air to pollute the atmosphere and fall as acid rain (Dong).

[31] The Athenians represent the oil and gas industry as well as, more broadly, economic interest in fracking. As oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens said at a press conference in 2009, “Natural gas is cleaner, cheaper, domestic, and it’s viable now.” The incentives to pursue natural gas production through hydraulic fracturing are great. The question is whether the industry is taking into account the social, medical, and environmental costs (McGraw).

[32] The arrow may be seen as a metaphor for lobbying Congress, as many groups, such as the Marcellus Shale Concern, have done in recent years (“Hearing”).

[33] Diana is the Roman goddess of the hunt; her Greek counterpart is Artemis. Diana is a virgin goddess known for her unity with and protection of nature, particularly animals.

[34] The votaress and her sisters are the environmental activists whose voices have been near silenced in the fracking debate.

[35] The peasants represent the citizens who, interested in the economic benefits of fracking, initially agree to allow the oil and gas companies frack their property. One such community is Dimock, Pennsylvania, home to the infamous burning tap water footage from Gasland. The residents of Dimock only became opponents of fracking when serious health effects manifested, including brown tap water, dizziness, headaches, and even cancer (Gasland).

[36] As John and Kathy Fenton, a couple in Wyoming whose property was fracked by Chesepeake Oil and Gas, said of the industry: “There’s different people and no one watches over them. It’s like a free-for-all”(Gasland).

[37] Here, the gods become a metaphor for the United States Federal Government. They decide not to intervene, much as has been custom for the USFG in regards to fracking following Dick Cheney’s excusing oil and gas industries from the Clean Air and Water Acts in 2005 (Gasland).

[38] A natural gas well can be fracked eighteen times. With 500,000 active gas wells in the US and about 8,000 gallons of water used per fracking, it takes 72 trillion gallons of water and 360 billion gallons of chemicals to maintain and produce the nation’s gas wells (Dong).

[39] More than 1,000 documented cases of negative health effects in fracking areas have been reported. As one victim, Amee Ellsworth, said, “…for like the last year and a half, I’m just not healthy…the whole family gets headaches…I’d like to ask the Congresspeople…we can’t even get clean water out here”(Gasland).

[40] Fracking fluid and produced water, both of which contain known carcinogens, can leach into the groundwater and pollute drinking water, causing additional health hazards (Osborn et al).

[41]Studies, such as one produced in 2012 by Duke’s Nicolas School for the Environment, have proved that “induced seismicity,” or earthquakes, may be an effect of irresponsible hydraulic fracturing (Warner et al).

[42] Marcellus’ plea is for alternative energy sources. As John Hanger, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, said in an interview for Gasland, “the difference between that side of the camera and this one is that you get to wash your hands at some point of all this…unless there’s a hydrogen economy, I don’t have an easy solution”(Gasland). As Dean Patton continues to remind us, a clumsy solution is really the only way. It may never be perfect, but the negative effects of fracking have rendered it absolutely necessary.

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