after ‘From Sea 1890’ by Alisha Yi
Observe: 700,000 young people take to the
streets in a global strike, the young are spilling
into the squares like a contagion, the young are
tearing this city up with their vegetarian teeth.
at dinner my mother surfaces like a body from
a lake, skirt hoisted to her hip as though we’re
treading water, and my eyes are dry for six years.
the weatherman watches us eat. he is so afraid.
keep the change. the oil of a take-out restaurant
is dancing atop black water.
Observe: when Greta speaks or chickens cluck
you can only hear choking, like a
drainage pipe at leaves.
sometimes I picture our road, after.
the earth winking on its side and all
the children turned to vegetables.
make no mistake, we are learning.
learning with our mouths brimming
with foraged pearls and metal straws.
but looking away makes it too easy
to misplace. our caution leads to
strange decisions. my mother puts
the keys in the fridge, wishes her body
into something cold and sweet, presses
her lips to the cola as if in prayer.
Observe: the particles of water in the birdbath
reproduce, decide among themselves to divide
like a foetus or an amoeba. they become an ocean,
swallow the birds. how many die before the flock
loses faith? there is something in the sky but it keeps
on breaking. my mouth is all feathery, teeth itch with
tiny fleas running between the shafts.
in the shower the gills come naturally. what a terrible
way to love. tell me, is it wrong to cough up so much
water from the lungs, the Pacific percolating through
my throat. hello? is this the repairman? no, no problem.
just Africa melting on my bathmat for four days and
four nights. how much for an emergency repair?
Observe: the young are damp from the
effluent, they are rushing to the sea,
the slope gradually heading into abyss.
Please, they say, save the turtles.
when I am still young, I beg the sea to unmake me,
flat like a seabed and several miles green. I dream
that they drained the pond and found nothing, that all
the children have drowned in fathoms of dust, but in
the end there is always enough still water to run over the
edge. it crumples and recrumples like shot silk, imitates
the sounds of everything it drowns: peristalsis pulling
down huge mouthfuls of sunlight like meat.
no matter how hard you look, you will not
see the algid bottom.
Observe: the young are bounding into
warming waters, laid awake by the shore,
sloped like shoulders and the currents
now porcelain and hungry.
the rain sours. acidifies. it’s beating the
records this year. the weatherman counts
backwards from the sea. quick, better get
your masks while they still sell them. there
is smoke in Exodus. there is smoke in
Leviticus. there is smoke in every cell of your
body and if you are burned you will rise
like a Roman sacrifice.
Observe: the camphor has caught red earth between
the roots and the trees pray for rain, slowly starving
to life. a man steps out onto his porch with his
shotgun loaded, and we wonder what is left to bleed
in this husk of a land. Australia is burning, and the
weatherman pins me down when I scream fire! like
like it’s always been too late. this is progress, he says.
my mother hums of aloe gel against sunburn.
I trap the heat like a boil, under glass jars. today,
all the bees are dead, and the usury has been forgiven.
I drip with honey, sprout stingers from every orifice.
this is the story where I forget the ending, tempt the
children out of their nests like disorientated baby turtles.
this, the story too wide for the tv screen, where I play
heroine and save the fish from their slow drowning in
rising sea-levels but scream at the sight of blood. this
time I am ready for everything. I megamouth. I pull up
the flowerbeds. I pull up the tides and swarm the shores.
I fan a forest fire with both my hands.
Observe: mite season. the crouchers and scuttlers
have reclaimed the garden. subclade of womankind
(in purses and handbags; taking in, taking in).
a bird feeds its beak into the ground and comes up
wanting. this is the story where I drop my jaw into
a crater. I find wet sea stones, clean like a thumb
taken into the mouth, and mistake their shine for faux
gold. soft and moon-heavy I watch my belly burst with
floodwater, back rupture to accommodate wings, and
though the polite ones look away, the women gourding
on their sundecks eye me from their driveways.