✧ Finalist for the 2022 Gearhart Poetry Contest ✧
Selected by Benjamin Garcia
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the fainting chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
Zebras and tapirs shed their piebald stripes, becoming monochrome. Yellow sapped from daffodils, begonias, goldfinches as chemical suns pulse like disco balls––dance floors emptied, drained of song. X marks the sites of contamination: gangrene shoals, plundered jungles, derelict multiplexes across smoldering wastelands, no gullet having escaped our touch. Wandering albatross and whimbrels lose their taste for chum, only trawling microchips and batteries (perhaps mistaken for crustacean) from charred, vacant factories. Variegation ceases to churn. Underwater creatures turn blind, schools lapping in never-ending vortices that sink makeshift hospital cruise ships. Theories about monsoons of wingless birds contradict common sense despite corroborated, peer-reviewed research. Seabed rocks from the Clarion-Clipperton Zone mined by robotic arms fuel unoccupied electric cars, choking highways along superfund farms. Rivers host nothing but an even flow of neon sludge. Questions posed by concerned survivors clog smoke-filled airwaves, go unheard. Polymetallic nodules, formed over millions of years, vacuumed out of the deep waters like lint. O, what ruin we bedlam and charm. Never mind global famine of astronomical proportions. Mollusks ground for milk for trillionaires’ babies not yet stillborn. Lethal levels of mercury hum in bloodstreams. Keratosis plumes. Just as before, just as it is, nothing is just. Iodine tablets surge as universal currency. Hoodwinked again and again. Green energy a fallacy when linked as commodity. From melting glaciers to shrinking massifs, we keep on drilling. Extraction is extinction. Denouement of photosynthesis; the demise of all that we know. Cobalt, copper, nickel, iron, manganese rank among blood diamonds, hard as snails’ teeth; we reap what we sow. Beneath the core, beyond our dim senses: a thrum. Alive, alive, something unhuman squirms.
SU HWANG is a poet, activist, stargazer, and the author of Bodega (Milkweed Editions), which received the 2020 Minnesota Book Award in poetry and was named a finalist for the 2021 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Born in Seoul, Korea, she was raised in New York then called the Bay Area home before transplanting to the Midwest. A recipient of the Jerome Hill Fellowship in Literature, she works with the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop and is the cofounder of Poetry Asylum with poet Sun Yung Shin. She is currently working on her second collection titled ARKS, and lives in Minneapolis.