Language of Water
2021, Senior, Poetry & Spoken Word
Some claim that my language reminds them of fish
rippling in water, with mouths that stretch open but
produce no voice of their own.
What sounds is the crash of water
on their bodies: a shallow thrum on their tender
scales. In the rising oceans, I am hard-pressed
to seek fish that still draw breath. It is a fact
I cannot accept, so I continue in search of something.
Could this be the sound of the fish? I wonder, since I
have always learned that fish
do not make sound. All that I know is the sound
my Mama makes when she puckers her lips
into the shape of the fish and the chasm
that shapes between her cheeks. Are we speaking fish?
I must ask, because I cannot
find fish anymore. Are there less in number,
or less in sight? In the sky, an act of the summer solstice
dries the clouds into thin wisps, sheets
of smog starting to fill the air. The ground,
stripped of shade, burns red the soles of my feet.
I’m worried that no pleasure
will ever match the feeling of being seven
and going to the beach after school, gazing
at the bright blue sky till it flattens me
below it like a steel toe boot, and I lie face first
in the wet sand surrounded by fish flopping back
to water. The beach, now growing shoreless,
seems to beg for my help as the sky opens up
and pellets it with acid rain. And I think
I have no answer, but I have voiced my language much too
often to believe that she is silent. I have sensed her soft
grasp nipping at my lips, asking to have my mouth. And
when I respond, my tongue becomes water, rising and
crashing against tender teeth.
In writing this poem, I was heavily inspired by how my memories of the ocean seem to be so much better than reality. That’s not to say the ocean is terrible, but it just doesn’t seem to live up to all the times I went to the Houston beaches and the waters that I swear were so clean and pristine that I could see down to the very bottom. In fact, I think this is a very common problem for many of us: we gripe about what we see in front of us and recall the past through a pair of rose-tinted glasses. The fact is that the ocean is not as “amazing” as what our memories describe it to have been. There are numerous issues that plague its waters, but many people fail to do anything about it because they either think they have no effect on the ocean or the ocean has no effect on them. However, no matter who we are and where we live, the ocean affects us, be it through something as universal as climate regulations or something as fundamental as oxygen production. More importantly, we also greatly affect the ocean. The collective actions of multiple billions of us greatly exacerbate the polluting and warming of the ocean, destroying habitats and raising the waters. It is important to realize that we are still a part of nature and that our growing populations require a sustainable future, which the ocean plays a major part in. Exploring the Ocean Awareness Contest has completely changed my view on the ocean, and it has encouraged me to express the need for change through writing and speech. Perhaps everyone will one day be able to learn the language of water and share their water stories with the world.