The December morning air smelled cool, fresh,
Coals of industry a faint background scent.
Bhopal contained an old pesticide plant
That employed locals and brought in money.

Poisonous intermediate
The methyl isocyanate
Built pressure in the old vessels,
But the aging pipes and valves failed.

They thought the meter
Failed and went on home
To leave the pressure
Building on and on.

But then
It popped


Agony of 3,787 deaths
Many more injuries, some severe

No litigation could repay this woe
But it failed to bring justice anyway.
Innocents were killed, but money was made,
Fulfilling the prophecy of profit.


This was written for the Terrible Poetry Contest #21, an engineering fail.

When I was in school for Chemical Engineering, the professors repeatedly pointed out Bhopal as the biggest engineering fail we should never aspire to. I think the poem got darker than it should have, and I actually feel like maybe I shouldn’t have written a poem about it, but… I hope I wasn’t funny so much as solemn and contemplative about the subject.


19 thoughts on “Bhopal

    • H.R.R. Gorman says:

      I found this hard to make terrible! Every time I did, I felt like I was stabbing one of the survivors with a needle. So I came up with this, and I hope it mostly feels just.

  1. Ishanee Sharma says:

    Well written. Certainly, Bhopal Gas tragedy has been the biggest industrial disaster in Indian history. The people of Bhopal suffered so much because of leakage in isocyanate plant. The plant failed to follow safety guidelines which would have prevented such a disaster.

    • H.R.R. Gorman says:

      Yeah… in my engineering classes, they said it was the worst industrial accident in the world, and it was so preventable. A number of safety checks would have prevented the tragedy.

  2. Jules says:

    A very sad history to learn about this morning. I was perhaps at the time to busy raising young children to be aware of the news so much those days. So I looked up the Wiki entry of Bhopal in Dec 1984. I think though if I am half remembering correctly this is similar (though I know very different from two years later) The Chernobyl disaster (that) was a catastrophic nuclear accident that occurred on 26 April 1986.

    We need poems about all things including the good, bad and the ugly.

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