Ellen Waters

Aching away in the confines of a chair,
her legs itch to
climb mountains
run through waterfalls
shiver and freeze and
collapse at the point of an insanity
which never lasts too long.
She used to take pleasure in the way
her head could lift and turn to face
the wind or chase sea air
and taste salt on bare skin;
she held the ocean across open palms
as one in love might clutch at the sun
and thank it for just
one more day of light.
But now it drowns her
a little more every minute.

Now she watches the news
with ever-widening eyes:
watches sea levels rise
oceans suffocate
forests burn;
watches defiance and ignorance
choke rationality with each gas particle
that shrouds the earth in roaring silence.

In time, she curls in on herself, a page folded
over to defend the secret inscriptions
she knows she can never bear to release
from beneath her own stinging skin.
Scrolling helplessly across her screen,
she watches life end in HD.
Scroll: another politician boasts
the climate crisis as a top priority for no
longer than it takes them to get into office.
Scroll: a celebrity wedding blooms across
a full page spread, the delicate bend of the
bride's wrist covering the latest tragedy.
She clicks into the article: why look,
instead, at something unpleasant?
Scroll: her daughter on her first birthday,
eyes glimmering with promise,
blurs her vision --

She shuts off her phone
and turns instead to the
child beside her, bones and
eyes and skin loaded with the
potential for damage or
salvation as her predecessors
see fit.
She watches a procession of generations
in her daughter's eye slowly fade
into smoke.

She stands from the confines
of a chair
rocks her to sleep
and whispers -

we have failed you
I cannot promise the world
will be there for you

but I am going to try

This poem explores the apathetic attitude towards the climate crisis and the ease with which it can be overlooked in favour of less disagreeable and daunting topics. It seeks to highlight the way in which people become spectators, feeling horror at the state of things whilst at the same time maintaining a detachment which prevents genuine progress from taking place. Ultimately, the piece shows how the imminence of the threat facing younger generations can be a powerful motivation in stirring people to take action.

Poetry, Environment, Newjfa1 Comment