When You’ve Forgotten Your Roots
2018, High School, Poetry
Hija, the Dagat lives around you—
coaxing oxygen in through your nostrils
to press life into your soul
and those that live around you.
Its waves sway to drown
disease and waste
that target you—
swimming through the waters
to infect you.
Hija, the Ocean protects you—
despite being separated by the lands
holding you up,
in your blood runs
and in a minute—
the Ocean’s power will falter
pressure pressing the waves below
corpses of lives
that never betrayed the Ocean’s care
and toxicity that feasts upon its oxygen.
Hija, won’t you help—
before the Ocean’s waves
are no longer able to push away
the disease and wastes
that will combine with oxygen
and press toxicity into new life forms.
When I was younger, my family from the Philippines as well as my Hispanic friends and family would comment that my name, Serena, means and/or sounds like "mermaid" in either Tagalog or Spanish. When I was three, my mother enrolled me in swimming lessons as a safety measure since she had heard of hurricanes flooding the streets of Miami and wanted me to be able to swim and at least save myself if she couldn’t save me. I wrote this poem from a mother’s point of view who’s reminding her child where she came from and who she is. The child is a gift from the Sea, and she had been protected and raised there until she left to go to the city, where she then forgets her true home that still protected her even though they’re separated by land. The mother tells her child that the ocean needs their help, and to offer it, especially since the ocean has taken care of her.