On the Island
2018, High School, Poetry
the fisherman’s net is empty today.
but he does not worry,
not yet, for in his wrinkle-lined face his eyes
hold an understanding with the ocean:
that she is often tempestuous,
will often withhold her treasures.
He has never been in the car-choked cities
of harsh grays and murky browns,
cannot realize how men are capable of twisting the world
with their oil-slicked hands and factory-smoke breath.
when the fisherman looks up tonight, the stars
will be as bright and cold as ever—
—even while carbon dioxide wraps itself
around a slowly suffocating earth.
The moon casts a protective glint across black-blue waves
and he has no way of knowing that his fish
are gone, swarms of rippling color
seeking out cooler waters,
united in glassy-eyed desperation.
was his house always this close to the water?
these same waves used to play with him when he was a boy.
now the white crests rush up like before,
yet they don’t recede.
Thousands of miles away: another glacier collapses
and there is so much water
with nowhere to go.
But all the fisherman knows of glaciers
is from a no-longer glossy photo
ripped out of an old magazine.
there is something out of balance:
not just with the water, but the sky as well.
he tells himself it is nothing new,
this symphony of drumming rain and howling wind
even if it is being raised to fever pitch.
And when he watches,
helpless, from an overlooking bluff,
as his wooden cottage floods
and his boat is torn away into the raging waves,
he reasons that he is getting old
and it is only natural for his luck to have run out eventually.
All of us have salt in our tears, our sweat, even our blood.
you do not have to live next to the ocean
to understand that we are irrevocably tied to its well-being,
and responsible for our intertwined fates.
Goldfarb, Ben. “Feeling the Heat: How Fish Are Migrating from Warming Waters.” Yale E360, 15 June 2017, http://e360.yale.edu/features/feeling-the-heat-warming-oceans-drive-fish-into-cooler-waters.
“Hurricanes and Climate Change.” Union of Concerned Scientists, 2017, www.ucsusa.org/global-warming/science-and-impacts/impacts/hurricanes-and-climate-change.html.
I have grown up spending summers on the beaches of New England; being so near the ocean my whole life has taught me exactly how immediate the issue of climate change is. I was inspired to center my poem around the idea of a single fisherman that I would sometimes see who, among all the commercial fisheries, seemed to represent a kind of natural innocence that I have always remembered. I wanted to explore a few different effects of climate change - like impact on sea life, coastal flooding, and extreme weather - through this naive lens with the overall goal of highlighting the issue’s importance in a subtle, stylistic fashion. I also thought that a fisherman’s inherent connection, even dependence, on the ocean would fit the theme and message well. Lastly, though most of the poem is about a single figure, the ending stanza is a reminder that all of us have a stake in our oceans and our world, and that we do have the power to create change, whether for better or worse.