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.