2020, High School, Poetry
We used to forget the ocean
by the summers. Two sisters,
tall and knock-kneed, waist-deep
in the world’s mouth. Sunscreened bodies
bleaching saltwater, shells flickering
by their toes: olive, spotted slipper,
lightning whelk. Their ponytails flap
like the wings of gulls—
On the summering beach, we forget
the fish unelegized, struggling
to breathe: their mouths left open
like uncapped water bottles.
Forget the mosaic of dying jellyfish,
the turtles and seabirds. Forget
the gum wrappers cocooning
the afternoon by our blankets.
Downshore, a gloved family of three
fills a recycling bin. We learn
to reuse our bottles, to remember.
Summer ending, and our eyes
watch nature’s undrowning
death, fishnet swirling. A turtle’s
white-bellied blood, bright
blue eggs cracking
months too early. We protest
for the planet, protest once
then twice. We dig
our feet into the silt, quiet rage
rising in our throats. We elegize
the fish into sand, pavement, mud, the earth,
with the soles of our flip-flops.
When the sea lips over the sand, we remember
the ocean by its life.
Growing up close to New York City, I think I’ve been conditioned to strongly value the beauty of our natural world. With few parks, reserves, and beaches available in urban areas, I’ve grown to cherish the limited opportunities afforded to me to interact with more natural landscapes. However, like other citizens, while holding appreciation for my environment, I haven’t always recognized and worked proactively to address the severity of the climate crisis. I wrote this poem while introspecting with my own relationship to climate change awareness and activism throughout my life. Through both the research I’ve done over the years and volunteering with environmental activist groups, I’ve educated myself about the harms humans inflict on the environment, some of them inadvertently. From simple activities on the beach such as wearing excessive sunscreen (whose chemicals impact the composition of saltwater and weaken coral reef defenses) to failing to clean up after our trash and plastic waste (causing the entanglement and suffocation of marine species), insensitive human consumption poses huge detriments for wildlife. What my poem seeks to portray by the end is the power of collective action to combat these harms: witnessing the conservation efforts of merely one person, one family, or a small community can enable others to more clearly recognize environmental threats, and can trigger much greater action. This mobility forms the frameworks of hope for a healthier planet, a framework I strive to build and grow through my art.