San Francisco, CA
2017, High School, Poetry
there is no language like that of whales.
you know when you hear it;
it sounds like time— like millions of years
murmuring as they go by.
the song of ex-gods,
sonic loops in
frozen currents humming through the tide.
perhaps you first noticed,
while sitting in a classroom in third grade, or maybe
a museum or on Animal Planet—
i recall a room of model giants
and a plastic button.
one click and sound surrounds you;
leaves you wondering
what are they saying?
what do they mean?
tell me: how do you make the ocean smaller?
easy. you fill it up with noise:
metal engines roaring, lurching
across the waves with heavy backs,
great towering monsters keeping time.
repeat for years—
run out of room for minerals, find some more,
blow up the seafloor
sounds heard from Ireland to Nova Scotia.
make a harsher song with submarines,
go back half a century, take the noise then—
and multiply it all by ten.
once in 2005, the racket
draws 34 whales to calmer havens—
the ocean carries sound too well.
what once brought great beasts together
pulls them apart;
now the only quiet place is out of water.
34 whales are found in North Carolina,
white sand, dark bodies overheating,
34 whales drying in the morning tide.
the land became the only place to hide.
still, we all speak too.
human words might overturn the tide
and though we cannot undo what we’ve done,
we can lower our voices;
speak softly for the silence of the sea.
we are the monster in the deep.
we are the thing from which the giants run—
but if we change the tone,
our song can soon become a kinder one.
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Cacophony was written about ocean noise pollution because until very recently I was not even aware of its existence. It seemed fascinating— terrible, but fascinating—to me that I had not heard about it before, and almost poetic in itself that this massive creature who I had always been in awe of was having its eerie cals drowned out by something so mundane as ships carrying crates. I live in San Francisco, and I often see these ships passing in and out of the bay. I had no idea that the noise they were creating could be so damaging to whales, but it makes sense; whales, after all, are very sensitive to sound, and their whole world is built on their songs and sonar in a sense. An environment too loud could definitely drive them crazy. One of my favorite things about writing poetry is crafting vivid imagery with small amount of language, and I tried to create pictures for the reader in this poem. Though the body of the piece (and my emotions on the issue) are fairly grave, I try to end on a positive note. Noise pollution, unlike many other forms of pollution, can be stopped and all effects will cease. I think this alone is a good reason to put it in the public eye.