She Cries

Over the summer, I was given a writing assignment. It specified to give a "sense of place" related to where I live. I can only imagine that others assigned this may have chosen to celebrate local attractions and little known facts. I contemplated writing about the serpent mounds..but settled on giving my rather sad rendition of the true sense of place.
I live in the Ohio Valley. And, if  you haven't read about us on the news lately, here's a bit that occured recently.
 
She cries. Can you hear her?
 
She was once alive with laughter and abundance. Now, her truth is raped and abused by the very people she once fed. 
 
She's been invaded by a self-exterminating pestilence. It threatens to take her too.
 
She is still powerful; but, she is sick. She is helpless and hopeless.
 
The change in her demeanor is reflected on the faces of the people who surround her. Her disease spreads.
 
Her community is unhealthy, obese, greedy and corrupt. Her solace is no longer sought. Her children are dying.
 
I've been warned not to touch her as if she were a leper. I've been told, "Do not take what she has to offer. She is nothing now. You have no idea what lurks beneath her glittering facade."
 
Once, there was a community that loved her. They took nothing from her that they were not able to return. These children are gone. They have been replaced by the unfortunate offspring of greed and corruption.
 
I can see her former promise. I will not leave her. She begs me to help her heal.
 
She asks, "Who will help you?" I have no answer.
 
We pray together as if she were my own mother approaching her death.
 
She is the Ohio River the largest tributary to Mississippi. She echoes the cries of all that flow into her. She carries sorrow with her leaving traces of her rotten guts on the blackened and littered banks.
 
The sun still rises at her head and sets at her feet. Yet, any hope she may have left is overshadowed by the tumors that have grown along her body.
 
Chemical plants dump waste on her breast. Petroleum refineries pollute her shores. Drug lords stash evidence in her pockets. Murderers place their victims like barrettes in her hair.
 
Why can't she be heard? Has everyone stopped listening? Have we been deafened by our own melodies made on behalf of "the dream"?
 
What dream is this? She awakens in hideously nightmarish gray fog only to fall asleep again on a pallet of garbage.
 
She beckons for me not to leave. I will not go; though, many do not understand why. "Leave this!" They say, "There is nothing left to profit from here."
 
My answer is, "To go where? What is left to destroy?" She is my birthright. She doesn't truly belong to those who have ruined her. We will cry together.