2017, Senior, Poetry & Spoken Word
the girl with sea foam fingers writes letters
on napkins left on beaches like loose change,
words stumbling down staircases of five-seven-five haikus
— i want an ocean,
the one mama whispers of,
when she eats, sleeps, prays —
she ties them to the webbed foot of a seagull,
sends it off to the governor–
“the tide is coming.”
he laughs, the kind of laugh that corrodes,
shoos the seagull — lulls it to sleep with plastic wrappers and bottles —
throws the napkin away to land up exactly where the girl found it,
dips his pen into the seagull’s carcass to sign a bill
for a factory to dump their industrial waste into the ocean
— man made trashcan.
The girl’s eyes are seismic; the world shifts.
the year oysters pearl, fish jump, and crabs claw;
the girl trades her haikus for ballads, her flat chest
for fruit cup breasts, their apathy for her unrest
the sailors; they call her a woman.
she gargles the sea in her mouth to remember why she’s fighting,
pulls trash left on beaches and from washed up animal carnage,
dumps it on the governor’s desk–
“the tide is here.”
chants reduce, reuse, and recycle outside the homes of oil-guzzling men,
she leaks into classrooms, salt water ferments the walls,
teaches her children how to protect;
the world watches her,
until its eyes cataract,
and ears burst.
And finally, it listens–
births the Marine Mammal Protection Act,
MPRSA, the ocean dumping act,
holds the UN Convention on the law of the sea–
All promises to defend.
whistles to the whoosh of the waves,
and shows her children how to protest —
The fight is not over.
where climate change is an alternative fact,
the ocean an afterthought instead of a forethought;
but it’s still her first thought.
her bones are soft like coral,
hair long like coast and gray like gravel,
voice throaty as a frog’s–
her battle ending,
the war still raging–
her children, we do not forget;
when our president pulls out of the Paris Agreement,
elects a denialist to run the EPA,
cuts its budget by thirty percent,
we grab conch shells and march on–
“the ocean is rising and so are we”–
she braids kelp through her hair,
washes her body with the sea,
tells us to never forget,
and we say we never will.
The last time I wrote about ocean pollution, I presented all the problems with ocean pollution that I saw, let my writing leave a bitter taste in the mouths of all who read it. Instead of criticizing ocean pollution prevention efforts, this time I tried creating work that encouraged participation, left the readers with a sense of empowerment. To try and convey that success isn’t possible, I integrated some of the most influential ocean protection laws. One of the biggest inspirations for this piece was the increase in apathy among my generation because they feel like their voice doesn’t matter, or it’s just there to fill a void. Before we fight for our ocean, we must realize that we have the ability to fight, wield our words like swords, march on Washington D.C. like its our home, and write dissertations on why global warming is not an alternative fact. I hope people derive power from this poem. Ocean awareness is an uphill battle, and we are the only ones who can win it.