2019, High School, Poetry & Spoken Word
Lessons learned, how blood can be clear as liquid. Think, the oceans
are bleeding into their afterlives. Think, the air is fisted, touched
into extinction by these good, soft palms.
My mother sung from her muscles’ fibers. You know how a body
carves home out of the sea’s torso. She often narrated on the beauty
in water & oceans. How it stirred us humans to tamed animals just
from an angle of light, bruising through the dawn-blue water. The
glistening of the flesh’s borders when we submerged. Time has been
wilting. That the ocean was salted with heat & acidity. Like a dish
named grief, we cooked it tarred. The air crumpled into a sore, hurting.
The water sourer, bleached with death, of scallops & sea snails. But
mom waited by this coast, she always, for the sounds of nature to play
her a night’s ballad again. I wondered, often, how our hands could give us
the world just to choke its water out, drained, right after.
Oceans & air, once our present tense now a burning world – our future’s
epitaph, dying still as the teeth-marks of lovers. Yes the water, yes
the wind paled by the weight of today, of us. We fossil-fuel. We fatten
it clean. We restaurant the climate. We oil our home. We sell it dry.
Some days, I think of it as music, the pounding of liquid. I think
the seas are trying to confess their freshest wounds.
That it was always a drought in our tongues. It’s the god, the anger upon
the crevice of oceans. My mom said, our way home. I knew she was denying
herself. So I wondered about gods. That could you blame the gods? The blame
plays like one’s laughing track. What about the children of god, I said. Blame
it on who think about the gold & dimes to etch into their sky. We don’t need
the world, do we not I ask do we what do we want? If I use these hands
to wrest from those syllables, throaty and heavy, I swear I could find
the sea-salt, mourning about home – about the coast, always seared with
the vinegar of high celsius. That there was always a war to start a sentence.
Driveway punctured by streetlights & sodium breath, we still harboured
the curves of our desire for the water. Our young summers silhouetted
on that water. That suddenly, I could see it coming. My presence & mother’s
being edited, the footprints we forgot – left swallowed by gravity. I
imagined the currents coasting in like beggars, curling themselves, bawling.
Can I beat you into existence again, sea? Everywhere it hurts
like the rain. Like the rain bruised with chemistry
& carbon. The oceans smoked into an experiment. I remember
loving the rain. I remember my heart watered &
muscled. Now, it sinks, like an echo. I still hear it
coming through a requiem the water the water the water –
I still hear the sound, it rusts a world apart.
[IPCC] predicts acidification could cause a 0.4 decrease in ocean
surface pH by 2100 Ocean acidification already be dissolving
the shells of sea snails in the Southern Ocean. (1)
1 million tons of carbon dioxide the Earth’s atmosphere taken up
the ocean reacts with seawater form a weak acid surface ocean
pH to fall around 0.002 units per year. (2)
from 2030 to 2050 climate change will cause every year 250,000
people’s death malnutrition, malaria diarrhea and heat shock
Remind me at times – I am my mother’s son. The ornate wound
of sunlight in my wake. Clutch back retrace the roads of air, saying
please dear please, the vibrations of remembrance. Those sentences
thud like an anchor to the depth. Like the seas waiting for the night’s
exit. The sunken nights. I remember waiting, kneeling by the river
of sun, its falling from the lip-cracked dusk. What’s left of us without
a horizon, stretched like desire between the water & the sky. Our only
reach towards somewhere better. What’s left of us but an animal already
inside a coffin? Our burial, the carcass of the seas boned by acid. Of course
I want the world, its water. I want it all to arrive to come back then I’ll fill,
I’ll fill these palms with the waves’ singing. I’ll plunge my voice forward
like an arrow. My friends, my parents, the world – we’ve been marching
till the earth is trembled with our bones, kindling into beacons. I’ll search
for your songs from the injured sky. I promise. I will.
Founder’s Favorite Award Winner, selected by Bow Seat Founder and President Linda Cabot
This poem is based off my personal story when I traveled with my mother to coastal Đà Nẵng, where we often spend our summers in Vietnam. It’s been altered quite substantially by climate change, or at least what I believe is climate change, with marine animals floating their bellies ashore and stirring up the community. I wrote this poem as a memento to enlarge the water’s smallest details, as if to recover the unwounded image of the coast—not romanticizing climate change but for us to retain how we once beautifully lived. This poem is fragmented with thoughts and news, because in grappling with hurt, there can never be a complete narrative to offer, only what’s left of loss. Combining the fracture with heavy blocks of text, this poem attempts to integrate the weighty facet of ocean/rain acidification and climate change, just like a newspaper’s article. My sense of rummaging and longing on our authority—our ability to posture the coastal life and to minimize climate change—also frequents. Because I believe we can do better. I mourn for the loss, but not for tomorrow. Because I trust tomorrow and the promise of one’s ability to advocate. The world’s oceans, everywhere, are hurting. But the poem’s last emphasis on future tense, indeed, kindles my hope for our voice boxes and stomach muscles—our voices. We break our throats, we scream for the better, for changes. We are and we will.