2020, High School, Poetry
by anatomy, we really mean anything dissected,
discarded, resigned to be of any use. diatoms, drifting
unheeded, search for light in the ocean’s plastic-lensed
eyes, teetering between zones of fate and desire. waves extend
their frail fingers of foam, memorializing last summer’s
carnage in wordless arithmetic, the boats casting opaque
multiplication on makeshift mouths. i count the casualties
of this genocide between two nations i love: bottlecaps, turtle
shells, flooded cities, and the smog-entangled air that drapes
a net over the scars. here, the sticklebacks scurry silently,
their supple bodies writhing in prison ropes. here, the warm tide
orphans conch shells, their arms swirling into and out of
existence—each rise and fall unnoticed, untamed until
we become flooded with the same salt of our veins. when i was
young, father told me that everyone had a song with the sea,
so i listened to its morning troubadour, its evening serenade, pocketed
the harmonies like glistening pearls. but now, the only sound
is a distant dissonance. now, the voices brim with litanies
yet we do not hear the cries of this unending battle.
like a warship, the rig slices through the ocean’s slick, thin lips, firing
chemicals to leech life from the murky mouth. i felt
the water like a fever, felt the waves rise like a cataclysmic temper, their ripples
reeling from the sins of a long-lost daughter. each name
pierced us like a jagged bullet: persian gulf deepwater horizon ixtoc 1
atlantic empress mingbulak kolva river…
from her choked windpipes, her oil-clogged lungs, nature sputtered
remember me in flood, fury, hurricane. she cried
stop, you only wanted to be close to the battlefield, not in it, of it. but still,
we made our way through the hail and storm, trod through the place
where the front lines collided until the last front was something we couldn’t
touch, only change. until the last glaciers sang their requiems in foreign
cradles, melting in oceans that mourned for the polar bears, the tides
stroking ruffled, pallid underbellies we tightened with restless
hunger. the seals, too, are whimpering their elegies, stranded on mirrors
of ice we cracked and dissolved with spears of ignorance. yet the ocean
still roars in a hollow semantic, her heart bruised blue by carbon, stomach
trampled by the fatal waltz of noxious acids, intestines cluttered with shards
of her sheltered past. yet she still cries daughter in her native language
of waiting, beyond her battered beaches where soldiers and saints had invaded. yet
she still begs come back to the hungry children, her pleas mistaken for prayer
by the fishermen. come back when it is still day, when there is still
time. below, the bleached corals litter their spines on silent entrails, eulogizing the
stillness of another mother we loved but couldn’t keep.
at day, the children run by the shore, humming with the rustle of the silky
sands. together, their starfish fingers wipe away the sea’s plastic
tears—backs bent like palm trees, they are still there, whispering warriors’
lullabies, and the sea sings back with melodies of ancient
treasure, her currents churning in turquoise embrace—i am still here, still
teaching you wisdom, gifting you the fruits i bear. at night, it only takes
a single moon to lift the weight of oceans, to soothe their ache without
hands, the way we, too, can shine our light onto the wounds
of our forsaken mother: her neck throttled with aluminum, lips marred
with petroleum, hands and feet bound with shackles of exile. once
we had made prisoners of war, chaining civilians—cod, halibut, salmon,
tuna, rays, sharks—to feed our whirlpool of desire, strangling webs
of ecosystems with our fishnets. once we had signed treaties, tried
to halt the bloodshed—the syllables rattle to give a voice
to the waves: CWA, CZMA, MMPA, MSA, NEPA. but now, we surge
past words and part our stubborn ebb, glistening with resolve
behind the fading penumbra. mother, watch how we flood our iniquities, our waters
cleaning, planting, chanting for a new dawn across bridges. mother, listen as
we demand sea change from our mayors, our governors, our president, birthing
goddesses in your foam. our hope flows in streams—one by one, town
by town, nation by nation—until our oceans roar your name, the way
you sang ours in the storm. and we rise as a single tide, fists raised
not in fight but in fervency. we listen to you calling—this is but
the beginning, you say. this is but a new moon, a cycle of rebirth. we will be the
fortress, the victory, the echo of the ripples. listen to the hymn of the breeze—
we are your children, we say. we remember.
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US Department of Commerce, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “What Is Coral Bleaching?” NOAA’s National Ocean Service, 15 Mar. 2010, https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/coral_bleach.html.
Recently, my biology class and I explored the ecological impacts of human activity. Among the concepts studied, ocean warming particularly startled me. Since the end of the Industrial Revolution, humans have elevated Earth’s temperature by an average of 1.4℉ annually, but the oceans’ ability to absorb heat has fortunately prevented volatile climate changes. However, from displacing myriad species to eliminating valuable foodstuffs, the rising temperatures and sea levels have affected ecosystems and humans alike—we must understand that the oceans, like mothers, nurture our livelihoods, recreation, and scientific discoveries. More importantly, however, we must internalize the fact that they, like humans, are finite beings and may cease to exist if society continues its ignorance. My poem examines the oceans’ symbolic wounds as people overfished, polluted, and waged a needless “war” against nature. As the poem progresses, a hopeful tone empowers individuals to reflect on themselves and their actions. Although we may feel insignificant compared to the crisis, as I did in the research process—from learning about oil spills to coral bleaching—we all have the ability to turn the tides regardless of our identity. As a high school student, I can mitigate my carbon footprint, uphold natural environments, connect with peers, and advocate for policy change starting with my town. And like molecules in the powerful waves, I am hopeful that, with continuous, concerted effort, humanity will ultimately be able to win this battle with a victory song—a song of unity, revolution, and healing.