BY KELSEY GASSELING AND AMANDA KELLY ESPIRITU
I won’t forget when you first asked me, Honey how was school today?
In my blunt young way I heard myself say:
The kids in my class won’t let me play
They call me crazy, they claim you’re mean
That you make life harder than it needs to be
Just shut up and hand me another paper ream!
I mean, the trees are dead anyway!
Don’t let their deaths have been in vain!
It’s okay, ma, I still love you though
You didn’t want to scare me so,
But you said, It’s high time you knew
Life will not be easy, living as we do
Though it was for a good cause,
I was too young to see
That the bond that would break us
Still links you and me
I won’t forget when I won a prize for that poem I wrote
The other kids in class, they didn’t have a hope
Because I devoted it to you, and all the love that I spoke
Filled up my pages with respect in youthful prose
I hoped I’d inspire them to respect you again
To pick up their litter, to call you a friend
But they took away my trophy
And broke it on the curbside
They plastered mud on my face
And asked me how I liked being the bastard child of a disgrace like you
And when I flew home, I plead Mom tell me they’re lying
You sighed, resigned, and benignly sat, holding my head as I cried
You said One day, they’ll see that this matters, they just have to,
But there’s nothing I can do right now, baby
Except go on loving and giving life to you
I fell asleep, subdued by the subtle rumblings of your stomach,
The shifting plates of your muscles, the crashing waves of the blood
Flooding your veins.
The same blood that carried me into life, into this pain
But I was still too young to comprehend
Still too young to see you as an end
And not just a means to my own contentment.
I can’t forget when I came home from high school,
You were washing my dishes in the sink
You asked me How was class today
I yelled How the fuck do you think?? They call me a fool
I should’ve known better than to stick up for you!
Imagine me, all alone at school:
Angry and attitudinal, a passionate figure, yelling and gesturing,
The images and sounds trumpeting through your head with megaphone held high and feet stomping echoes into your mind:
Global Warming! Save the air!
The Great Hoax! The government lies!
Can’t you feel the pollution seeping into our homes?
Save the polar bears!
They stare at me and say:
I used to think, they profaned your name
For lack of insight
Now I can’t help but see that they’re absolutely right
It’s a hoax, you’re a fraud
With all this global-warming shit
Mumbo-jumbo spitting environmentalists
Picketing and wishing that their message would stick
Well maybe there’s a reason
Your bullshit initiatives don’t sit well with society!
Psha, we’re always gonna have fuel to burn and resources to use and abuse.
Someone’s always finding more.
I don’t want to think about being green or whatever at all.
I don’t really want to follow all of the news about the environmental down-fall.
It’s not my problem.
Nothing lasts for eternity. It’s inevitable.
Things will run out and there’s nothing you or I can do about it.
You’re just another conspiracy.
And it all seems unreal, if you ask me.
It’s not like it’s killing everyone. This isn’t some epidemic, rat-born disease
Who’s dying, ma, can you explain that to me?
You’re backwards, obsessed, and obstructing our progress
Stomping our economy just because it’s out to make a good deal
And it doesn’t support some hopelessly naive, idealistic “fair trade” movement
Well maybe you’re just lazy, ma
Like the farmers who can’t make a living for their own families
Maybe you’re not cut out for this whole parental scene
I’m sick of all the demeaning words, they hurt,
I’m sick of wasting time discerning what goes in compost and what in recycling
That’s all anyone ever talks about
I’m sick of always being the butt of jokes
Seen as the spokesperson
For you and the rest of your militantly tree-hugging, grungy, hippie folks
Just let me be!
I ran away that night, didn’t see you for a week
I was sure you’d see how horrible you’d been
Was sure I’d teach you a lesson
About what it meant to be a normal parent of an adolescent
About how I needed acceptance
And how you were just trying to prevent me from reaching my full potential.
Oh Yeah, I cared about the earth and the sea and the air…
Just not as much as you,
And not as much as some.
I mean, there were other people looking to fix it already…
And I was holding out for bigger things, more important, necessary things.
I wasn’t being selfish, just realistic.
And maybe you weren’t worth saving anyways.
I won’t forget:
When you got sick
Doctors said your heart was flooded with toxins
Your main arteries were dammed
Locked up and constricted by log jams
Ill red blood cells bleached white
By chemicals from nearby paper mills
And still you kept fighting
They chopped the branches from your trees
So your veins could no longer carry the air you needed
So your lungs were filled with poisons and left untreated
Your temperature rose, your brain feverish with heat
The cool blue ice of your irises I saw melt into your cheeks
And for the first time, I feared for your life
And for the first time in years, I felt no fear for mine
Because I saw your body rejecting what once had made it whole
Saw you pulled in two by people who
Encumbered your growth
Til you had nothing to do but slowly succumb to a coma
That left you defenseless
And I saw that as a people, we’re relentless
Any involuntary reaction you happen to take,
We can counter with some piece of technology made
Specifically for manipulating you
And your life blood
I decided right then and there, to give you a transfusion
My confusion and bemused complacency were swept away
As I wept where you lay
But my gestures and posturing were meaningless and motionless.
I was so pumped full of black oil, creeping through my veins
And Botox injected to give me that “natural” look…
That I couldn’t save you.
And I knew it was my fault.
I screamed for help, but they turned a deaf ear
So now I’m here, ma, speaking clearly for you
To the Cynics and Slobs, with no opinion really:
The children of today that you’ll be leaving tomorrow,
Live your lifestyle while the rest of us choke
And we have to sleep next to the shit you’ve unloaded
Don’t forget when I make your ears bleed with my profanity
Because my mother still has to breathe in the cloaking smoke and chemicals you hack
But go ahead, keep running around that little resource-guzzling track
You’re burning into her exposed and weather-worn face
With your addiction to spinning rubber wheels and smelly gas into space
And your need to get moremoremore miles whenever you fly through the sky
Should we become desensitized to these issues and turn a blind eye?
Keep at this path of self-destruction and keep constructing skyscrapers and highways
Along the banks of the stopped-up River Denial?
Have we forgotten how to speak for ourselves?
To not act or point out how we’re shortening our lives
By speeding up and distracting our minds
Despite all the new medicines and fancy pants treatments
Used to preserve us past the time on our expiration-date
And brashly beat back words and thoughts that threaten actual change
Should I not make my opinion known?
Should I be like you and just decide
To not sacrifice my luxuries,
Even when it wracks my nerves and gets my hearts beating off-time
And out of my chest, making obscene beads of effortless sweat run down my back?
To let procrastination and second guesses and laziness overtake my brain?
To agree mindlessly with some poncy politician who only wants to rake
In the votes and the cash and the lime-light?
To scoff at environmentalists like they’re a good joke as they try to convince us we’re running out of time?
I’m getting gassy with greed and jealousy which grips me and chokes me
Until I’m green in the face, gushing about prospects and profit
That I guzzle like gummy bears coated in chocolate.
I’m not some springy, green sprite of spring, green middle finger flipping off the birds of the world that crap on your car, ready to set nature free by wearing a fucking green shirt and recycling once a month
I’m smeared with pasty make-ups, caked-on perfumes and colognes
Hiding pockmarks of pollution and the stench of my selfishness
I’ve forgotten what my true reflection looks like
And I’m too proud to EVER admit that I’m wrong
I’ve forgotten what pure air tastes like
I hunger for sunlight on my skin
For grass and flowers to pull up and toss to the wind
To let go of the gas and electricity we once used without a second thought
And all the lifeless cash in the world that never really bought us happiness
I’ve forgotten just how I squandered it all
All I can remember is dust and death
And smog-riddled dreams of what could still have been
Because the greens and blues locked away
In my pictures are the only memories that remain
And even those can’t sustain me
Covered as they are now with brown sludge and black smudges.
I won’t forget the so-called experts who stood by while the spark lit
New life into your chest
They could have operated on you,
Cleaned up the pollution that cluttered your lungs
But they wanted the easy solution
And so sutured in a pace maker
To make you dependent on the push of a button
But it could have been prevented
Were we not so apathetic
I can’t forget to BE RADICAL. BE PASSIONATE.
Do something with my life and my choices
If I won’t use my voice, I need to give it - to someone who will
I’ll rip out my voice-box, dying to be used
I’ll give it an opinion and blast it into the ear drums of the world until it vibrates through into even the most thick-headed skulls and grabs their attention,
I’ll break what can’t be broken,
That wall of self-assurance and disregard for life,
That we clutch to our eyes to make us blind to how much we’re destroying
I’ll lift all these messages to new heights, take it all and scream it out instead of the shit ton of lies and excuses they pack, air-tight into commodified bags of truth,
disguised with labels of “good” intentions towards you
I’ll let go of my ego
Unclench my fists around my pocket-book
Be freer with my efforts, my income, my wishes
To take a risk and invest in what’s best for you
To clean the sluices of my body
So the refuse that once pumped through my veins
Will no longer cause you pain
When my blood goes coursing through you.
I won’t forget to give you new life
By respecting mine.
I’ll sweat out the pain, drain my ears of the sugary-sweet notes
Of self-preservation, national pride, competition, and nearing technological perfection
That drowned out your cries for mercy
Because that day you got sick, I made a promise
A promise I’ve kept
Because you opened my eyes,
And I’ll never forget.