And These Are the Stains We Left (when our ocean was still blue)
Santa Ana, CA
2015, High School, Poetry
He took her to the beach he’d visit when the ocean was still blue.
Now there is nothing. The sands are grey like corpse flesh, the waters cadaver colorless blue; thousands of plastic silhouettes rising & fall with the waves. On the rocks they pass the cracked shell of a sea turtle.
(fact; these waters once teemed with life, jellies like carcass of vibrant blood, whale ribs beached in first worlds at first dawns, squids forty feet long with writhing pallid tendrils, microplankton incandescent in the summer-gloaming,)
it used to be blue, he said. like the sky.
the sky isn’t blue, she answered. its grey.
(fact; the sea could never host life. in ancient mythologies, it was said that there were peoples who lived off the bounty of the sea. this has, of course, been proven by archaeologists to be false. they believe these boats they found were merely used for ceremony– cf. viking customs, specifically letting the dead go out afire at sea.)
why did you drag me here again? she asked.
to see the ocean.
(myth; pearls. pry open a clam & you will find an iridescent globule so simple it is nearly baroque in its symmetry. called meregrot by the saxons, margarita by the romans, hafnýra by the norsemen– fictional.)
I don’t see an ocean. its all dead. like a desert. translation: you said it would be blue.
silence. translation: it used to be.
(fact; the ocean was blue, once, but it isn’t blue here, now, here and now, & therefore that reality is untrue.)
They stare. The waves drag, out & in, out & in. A tired cycle without meaning.
The girls kicks a can. can we go?
sure, he says, sure.
She looks at him. He looks out to the ocean, brow scrunched in thought.
c’mon. let’s go.
He seems to be snapped out of a trance. alright.
The girl turns around & walks back across the beach. He looks to the ocean once again, as if expecting something— dolphins, the sound of seagulls, a blue miracle. Nothing.
He turns & he does not look back. Not once.
Things you can find on a Beach
a rusted shopping cart. tangled plastic net, neon blue. cigarette butts. wine glasses. beer bottles. milk jugs. half a tennis ball. styrofoam boxes. candy wrappers. broken ballpoint pens. blue-raspberry fundip. buttons. bottlecaps from 1972. buckets. god knows what. tin cans. rubber ducks. lots of plastic bags. hypodermic needle. chewed-up surfboards. sneakers. rain boots. wet socks. diapers. wedding dresses. detergents. deodorants. fertilizer. herbicides. 80,000 terabecquerels of radioactive waste. bras. underwear. lingerie. an action figure of godzilla, missing one leg. baskets. camera lenses. toilet paper rolls. yarn. a soggy sweater. tyres. pesticides. flip flops. bags of every colour & every kind: grocery bags, chip bags, sandwich bags, dog bags. mercury. sewage. backscratchers. tampons. condoms. balloons. band-aids. empty spray-paint cans. lightbulbs. avocado peels. broken calculators. mattresses. doll limbs. shovels. hairbrushes. cds. teddy bears. a wooden hairbrush. combs. plastic forks. plastic spoons. plastic knives. rusted coins. needles. showerheads. staples. pins. tissues. automobiles. shutters. clocks. watches. a sink. swivel chairs. a table leg. gluesticks. half of a scissor. everything & anything of plastic.
similar to a nearby junkyard.
And you might’ve escaped (if I had fishnet in my throat)
“Now the Sirens have a still more fatal weapon than their song, namely their silence. And though admittedly such a thing has never happened, still it is conceivable that someone might possibly have escaped from their singing; but from their silence certainly never.” Franz Kafka.
you wash ashore, and there
is net tangled in your throat
and your vocal chords are
hoarse from crying in your
seaside tongue and your sisters
(she swallowed a haddock
and a fishhook caught on
the flesh of her throat)
muted, you are simple
as a musical scale; so fa me rei
doh. what sailors will
you enchant now, with your
voice screamed hoarse?
what is your power over hearts
there is blood in her throat,
and she cracks shells against the rock
because she cannot catch fish
she claws, and scratches,
and screams and flops
on those beaches, crying,
crying for her sisters and her
oceanic father help me,
help me, i can’t breathe
i can’t breathe
is this what the sailors felt like, going to their deaths?
what is a handful of seaman souls
compared to the voice of a siren?
what are the argonauts, beached
on foreign shores
compared to a muteness?
what is oddyseus, drowned
compared to this loss?
Seven Sacrifices to the Gods of Plastic
1 sea turtle hatchlings
we we ate were nurtured by
sargassum beds in the pelagic
something we drifted in the reeds
we like drifting like the jellyfish
have you ever tasted jellyfish? jellyfish
it is bright like warmwater fish &
it is yummy & we like it much very much
we don’t know why we’re dying, though
we only ever eat jellyfish
2 sea lion
mommy? why arent you moving?
ive been nuzzling you & you wont
nuzzle me back. mommy? mommy?
im scared. mommy you need
to wake up we need to get fish
im hungry mommy?
I spent nine tenths of my life
in the firmament, with the wind
passing like seagrass on my feathers and the years follow
like undulating billows on the surf; nine tenths of my life
in the heavens, the skies, in the clouds– I’ve circled the globe
eighteen times by wing.
So it’s understandable, at least,
that I’d never thought I’d die here,
on the earth, in the dirt,
with a fishhook in my throat.
4 otter mother
my baby my child she is wrapped
in death & i am trying to get her out she
can’t breathe my baby please let go my only
baby let go i want my child i want my daughter
you can’t take her from me do you understand
that i love her? please please please help her
untangle she only thought it was a wisp of kelp
seaweed at worst a jellyfish don’t take her please
help me get this off her she’s tangled please help
5 sperm whales
you will cut open our stomachs
to find the squids we last ate,
maybe a megamouth or two
and demersal rays
our bodies will wash on your shore
like the silhouettes of the oceanic gods
we once were
in the seas we are deities,
beached we are remnants of a world
you do not know, removed
from our blue pedestal
we cry in echoes onshore
(at least we die
Seven (semi-oceanic) Haikus with Footnotes
children press their cheeks
against glass to see empty
eyed plastic fish
tanks labeled firefly
squid are lighted by neon
powered by rude mechanics
seals flap robotically,
break down over time
hundred dollar shells
among prehistoric fossils
ocean is privilege
only the rich can
afford old seawater, jarred
on their windowsills
all beaches are only of
seaglass, only man
the word ocean is
obsolete; the word waste is
the day there is more trash than water
the sea will be like death, like waste & decay
there will be plastic bags rising and falling with the waves
sand obscured by the multicolour trash brighter than coral reefs
dead fish dead seals dead squids dead everything
and a dumpster on the beach
children will ask,
mama, why are all the fishies dead?
there will be a race
biologists on all sides of the earth will run to the shores the seas with vials
species will be confused hermit crabs will be housed with the mussels
the press the magazines the reporters they will all be there
there will be photographs live news
it will be too late
for the giant squids
& the whales
& the cuddlefish
& the marcoplankton
& the great flocks of fish that wash dead onshore
on the beaches
seals with plastics wrapped around their throats will cry their vocal cords hoarse
bodies of sea turtle hatchlings will be tangled in grocery bags
that fall, the bodies of starving albatross
will litter the earth
to see plastic fish with empty eyes
in the museums
they will display sanddollars alongside the prehistoric fossils
they won’t care
‘human pollution had nothing to do with this / mass extinction of more than half of earths species / no evidence humankind played a part in this / they just want to make corporations the enemy / taking away the rights of the 1% / democratic propaganda / no proof you have no proof’
[the seals will still lie dead]
on television they will complain about the economy the democrats the president a celebrity’s awful hairdo etc.
there will be that one friend who says ‘the ocean is gone!’
(because there isn’t an ocean anymore, there are waters, and they are barren and desolate and grey and polluted and they will house no life, not now, not ever)
they won’t care
grandparents will tell their grandchildren
about birds that could fly three thousand miles without a flutter of their wings scores of microscopic organisms lighting the waters creatures that could change form in a second an expanse a blue expanse an expanse that teemed with life
the children will scoff
giant creatures with tentacles forty feet long? glowing water? flocks of incandescent jellies?
get real, grandpa
80% of our next-door neighbours will be gone
the world will still spin madly on
I consider this anthology as an anthology of comparisons, of the harsh contrast between reality and myth.
As humans we are always wondering, what could happen and what could’ve happened. The fate of our ocean is like this: these are the worlds that could be, that could’ve been— our plastic is almost this reality, and the oceans are this myth. ‘And These Are the Stains We Left (when our ocean was still blue)’
Some of my poems are harsh, factual, and realistic (see: ‘Things you can find on a Beach’) while some are whimsical, exploring the effect pollution has on myth (see: ‘And you might’ve escaped (if I have fishnet in my throat)’. Others personify to make concepts or creatures more relatable, to truly pique the emotion of the reader (see: ‘Five Sacrifices to the Gods of Plastic’, in which the number is also representative of the number of our seas; the numbers of waters we will lose) and some offer visions of the future if we were to continue this way (see: ‘Seven (semi-oceanic) Haikus with Footnotes’ and ‘the day there is more trash than water’). As humans we need to be able to relate to what is happening, at the risk of having no empathy if we cannot.