Stories From the Bow Seat

2017 Winner: Forgotten Blues (High School Poetry)

2017 Ocean Awareness Student Contest: Notable Submission Award in the High School Poetry Category

Tanya Singh
Age 17
Chandigarh, India

“Forgotten Blues”

Behind the glass ceiling of skies, holding the freckles of molecules,
Across vast stretches of the descending heaven of the starless abode,
The paper boat is square, and restless in the motionless abyss of bourn,

A thousand moons and a thousand lakes stretch back and forth,
The narrow winding hilltops flirt gregariously with the passage
Of time, slowly submitting to the pool of certain deserts, the blinking
Eyes roll off as the curious river and I meet behind the summer of
Ninety-nine, mother I am a thousand and one reflections of the petite moon,

The horizontal creek reads kilometres and metres aging over the bar,
A delightful little voice submerges in the hearth of butterflies of blue,
The map recites oil spills, debris, questioning the rillets of silver in dark,
The vestige of elixir running, running evades the deserted plot since hund
-red years of global devastation, marked by silent whispers of accent graves,
Between me and the river, we are involved in an affair of thirst and thirst,
River is the jazz of saxophone, and I am only beating around the parched bush,

The fog condenses with my kiss on the mirror, I sense the river lingering,
The ice caps descend like crowns of kings who are long, long, long dead,
Becoming only a thousand burdens for posterity making sly passes at ocean,
Fishbone rubbing against the itch of my watershed hand and purple fingers,
I feel the clearness of the mind bloodied by the coarseness of salt crystals,
The river is the head full of curls of seven oceans, not one I have seen,

The river is the inherited heirloom, and tells me in all shudder of waves,
“I am withered to the reflection of the sky paling at your wooden doorsteps,
and the drought becomes my only heir, the drought is your beloved off-spring,”

The shadows of the river dance along with the Pavane for a Dead Species,
When it changes its course, muddled and muddied, certain acidification plays,
the obscure in the limbo sings the ballad of utter disregard when the river
doesn’t cry, the way the desert doesn’t cry, not once, its nucleus is wizened,

I stand across the portrait of the nuclear river Danube in the Centrals of Europe,
Ah, well it is just a portrait of white fruits shrivelled like the sewage waste,
I stretch in sweat pants, the dead river stretches in sweat, all salt and no glory,

Like the atoms in the galaxies of my body, and now, only I am here, the river
Are a thousand dreams wrapped inside a casket in the cascade, and my favourite
Bed time story has been passed down to me by mother in her twenties, when all
The fishes died, and all the land was desert, and thirst was our mutual friend,

“Once upon a time, the river and I were one.”

My grandmother pulls a sheet over me, and tells me not to cry, for I am not to
waste my tears should we all die thirsty. She sings some ancient lullaby, and
prays, and prays. “Thank God, we are not dying hungry at least.”

I don’t make paper boats. I don’t know any rivers of water. We learn about the
ocean in our history class, as something ancestral. Inherited only in memories.
evaporated in sight. when my grandmother dies, she doesn’t even cry.

I pick my pen, and I write to my grandchildren, don’t cry, don’t cry. we might
never meet. we only have our tears to drink.


Student Reflection

My poem talks about a point far ahead in the future, when the ocean has ceased to exist. As such, I did not make use of any sources to create this piece. My inspiration for this piece comes from my grandmother. My grandmother is no longer with us. As a child, she used to tell us stories. In almost all the stories she would narrate, there was always an element that questioned the logistics of a subject. “What if?” It always encouraged me to ask questions. I guess the lack of awareness is one of the most dangerous things. I’d disagree with anyone who says that ignorance is bliss. It is not. We are beating the ocean to death at this very stage, simply because we do not understand, and are unable to comprehend, the gravity of the situation.  The poem uses sarcasm to highlight the possibility that one day there might not be an ocean, and as such we all will die. It relates the ocean to all the rivers, emphasizing on the personal nature of the ocean given in our individual contexts. That perhaps one day we would not make paper boats because there aren’t any rivers. That one day my grandchildren wouldn’t even question the transience of the ocean because it simply doesn’t exist anymore. That if we do not take any action right now, we will be inheriting seven deserts instead of seven oceans. We can expect our history lessons in the future to be about how oceans once existed, and how they do not anymore, if we do not question the state of our tired affairs. We must learn to question, resit, rebel, and take action for the better. Our actions–and our inactions–are both bound to have terrible consequences.

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