2018, High School, Poetry
from sea to shining sea—
the bodies of fish litter the beaches
like scattered shells. I make a home
in the carcass of a whale, the curvature of its ribs
a safer country than my own: parched & shaking.
at night, I listen to the water
sliding against sand, eyes closed,
kissing the bank over & over & over, as if a prayer can close
a wound. I dream of touching
the world’s grief, holding the liquid
in my hand.
the water erases my footprints
with a single embrace.
the ice is melting—
and in the depths of these warming waters
animals move their lithe bodies,
slick skins combed back by the fingers
of the water, light pressed
to their matted underbellies.
an albatross lies on the sand, the yolk of the sun
dripping down its wings.
a coast is swallowed back into the belly
of the ocean, and sea turtles forget
to return to where they were once born.
the sound of ice cracking, like a gunshot
in a tunnel,
but the polar bear doesn’t turn to look,
lips hooked to the rising waterline.
it’s filled with acid—
the new mother wades through discarded clothes,
her baby cradled on the valley
of her hip, the cavern of its mouth as silent
as the brown waves that lap at her ankles.
for days now, her husband
has caught no fish. he tells her they have nothing
to eat, either. nowhere to go.
she sees pictures of coral on the internet
and they look as bleached as the buildings
that crumble around her.
the way so many can be displaced
and trapped, at the same time.
labyrinth, impenetrable blue—
the slide switches
to milky stalks standing in glass jars.
row after row, sunlight glinting off their necks.
how difficult, how necessary it is
to penetrate secrets hidden at the very depths
of the sea.
gloved hands take the pulse
of a starfish, feel the belly
of an octopus, press a magnifying glass
to the trembling silver of a fish.
we know the atmosphere is dissolving
into the ocean, the line
between azure and golden blurring.
& every day, now, a sign
that people are listening.
today—a mural of a giant pink coral
in front of the governor’s lawn.
the earth begins to shake—
they say you can hear the ocean
inside a conch shell.
it’s not really the ocean, but the ambient noise
around you, swirled into a tiny shell.
& each of us, too, a conch shell.
with the power to transport
the sigh of the sea,
its beauty, fissures, corrosion.
we have grown up connected in the blue glow
of our screens
and now we speak, our words like matchsticks,
our bodies made of story
& fire. raised fists sea surface temperature
and our hearts beating to the sillage
of the ocean tide.
we will be the flood, the pulse,
the riot that dissolves the walls.
the water, the water.
what does it take
to turn the tide?
our voices, the tempest—
One of my favorite quotes from the novel All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr says: “[the sea] contains so many colors. Silver at dawn, green at noon, dark blue in the evening... It seems big enough to contain everything anyone could ever feel.” This vast and vibrant expanse of water has always fascinated me, as I’ve lived in the desert my entire life. But perhaps this very notion of vastness, of an ocean able to contain anything, has led people to condone their actions by believing that the sea can survive any carbon footprint. In reality, the ocean, as well as the ecosystems and communities that depend on it for survival, are beautiful but also fragile. Amid denials by the United States government, as hurricanes devastate neighborhoods and coastal cities are predicted to drown, youth have the power to create lasting change and “turn the tide.” Recent movements like March for Our Lives inspire me. I cannot walk the beaches collecting trash. But I can reduce my own carbon output, talk to my peers, raise awareness, sign petitions, and march. And most importantly, I can write for the injustices I witness, to encourage the future marine researchers and business executives and policymakers to spark change. It’s time for us to take responsibility. I want my writing to convey urgency, as well as possibility. Together, we can build the future that we want to live in.