The Endangered Mussels of Eastern North America Rise Up

Green blossoms blanket the streambed and white
and purple cat’s paws tread among them.

All are welcome to the rebellion of filtration.

Mussels, if they had eyes,
Would see only through the shifting light
Of flowing water so they don’t discriminate for looks.
Wartybacks and threeridges,
Pimplebacks and tubercled blossoms,
Monkeyfaces and sheepsnoses
Are all there.

A purple bankclimber scouts the way

And a pale Lilliput and littlewing pearly
Shall lead them.

Even those that sound like fighters—
Snuffboxes, cracking pearlymussels,
Pink muckets and scaleshells—
Aren’t.

Theirs is a bottom rebellion.
Filtering runoff,
Rebounding after dams come down.

For years they have
And for years they will
Flail their unprotected flesh
Outside the spectacle cases of their shells
And lure a fish to bear their offspring upstream.

Some future generation will do so without
The names of industry or exploitation.


Andrew Blok is a freelance environmental journalist and writer living in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is slowly but steadily learning all he can about Michigan’s native plants and animals. Despite growing up on the west coast, he has come to love the Great Lakes.

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