In Colonized Terms

by Rachel Atakpa
Lawrence, Kansas

kansas is a landlocked state


despite being situated along the meridian

of a landmass enclosed by three oceans and a sea.


the place i cultivate garden plots is situated in a valley town

along the river kaw, glacial re-memory. 


our drinking water comes from the kaw. as does the garden’s.

as does the coal plant’s, requiring 1.6 billion gallons 


of water annually. siphoned from the river (along

with fish, larvae, eggs & flora)


the water is heated for steam and returned

rotting, contaminated, and too hot for the wildlife 


who are already mercury-infused 1 from the falling

ash and dense with microplastics 2 from the local


plastic resin manufacturers which derive their material

from “virgin fossil fuels,” 3


primarily for use in the fast food and health

care industries. nonrenewable carcinogens coalesce and link


perpetually to diabetes, bronchitis, asthma, cardiac arrest & premature

death. the thermoelectric plant radiates a cloud


which hangs over the hydroelectric power station, 

damming the kaw. northeast the dam is ICL group 4 performance products,


manufacturing phosphoric acid and sodium phosphate used in consumer

products (food, cosmetics & asphalt) and chemical weapons 5 which the united states


and israeli occupation force 6 use to commit war crimes against palestinians. 7

their smokestacks release 38,000 metric tons of CO2 


annually. 8 comparable to the university of kansas 31,000 tons 9

expelled from the highest point in the city, 10 casting a shadow


over the former indian industrial training school (est. 1884) which buried

103 children, disappearing and assimilating hundreds more. children whose land


is fracked for oil and natural gas which leaks into aquifers. the pressure from extraction

hurtling earthquakes along tornado alley.


the ancient glacier which formed and filled the river kaw tilled the soil 

in its becoming, making the farmland fertile,


but planes have flown low over the monocrops for a century, to kill

the weeds, contaminating the wheat and corn processed for bovine 


consumption out west, eroding the soil. cattle, hormone-pumped, methanic 

mechanisms of soil compression, who superseded bison post-genocide, 


bear first witness to the wildfire smoke rolling out over california & colorado 

colonies and onto the plains. in the midst, the first frost becomes


evasive in the heartland. precipitation, planting schedules, weather patterns, obsolete. simultaneously, i cannot discern between seasonal disease, anxiety, hereditary 


high blood pressure, covid, and the carcinogenisphere. 11 i tread presently through the valley, tend the land and body saturated with contaminants and, impossibly, the gardens grow.

rachel atakpa is a Black feminist poet, artist, gardener, teacher practicing on occupied Kaw, Wichita, Gáuigú, Kiikaapoi, Osage, land. atakpa studies psychosomatics, dances to utopia, dreams of bison returning to prairie. encounter their work online:
  1. Coal plants emit toxic metals such as mercury, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, nickel, and selenium. (Physicians for Social Responsibility, 2018) []
  2. 83% global tap water contains microplastics, 94% United States tap water contains microplastics (State University of New York at Fredonia, 2017) []
  3. Berry Global Reporting Initiative Index (2020) []
  4. Also known as Israel Chemicals Ltd[]
  5. Observatory of Human Rights and Businesses (2017) []
  6. New Zealand Super Fund Asset Portfolio, released by Official Information Act (2018) []
  7. The contract between ICL and the Armies was signed in 2013 and is ongoing (Ibid.) 


  8. Environmental Protection Agency Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data (2020) []
  9. Ibid.[]
  10. Fraser Hall on the University of Kansas campus is 1,258 feet above sea level, compared to the city-wide median of 866 feet.[]
  11. The devastating comorbid environmental conditions and consequences wrought by white supremacist capitalist patriarchy (Anne Boyer, 2019) []