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Serratia Marcescens  

Peter Sordillo

She kept screaming that the streets had been altered.
As her fever rose, she saw rain darkened, trees turned red.
The germ we grew in agar: the same thin rod
That bred in yellow marsh, in clutter of weed.
Red seeds swelled upon the laboratory wall.
That night, I dreamed of a city older than knowledge,
Dreamed of Serratia, climbed up from the soil,
Drawn over the fields like a long dress

Of dying leaves. A broken city,
Black girders blazing against a jagged sky.
In bloody snow this morning, I feel
The red wind drive past me like a ghost.
Damask lights float upon the hill.
I see the arms of the burning statues reach out.

(In 1950, in germ warfare experiments, the U.S. Army released huge clouds of Serratia particles over the California Bay area, exposing thousands. Local doctors, unaware of the tests, reported an unexplained outbreak of Serratia infection, including one death.)