Bleaching

I had a screenless childhood.
What I looked forward to, each month
Was the National Geographic
Arriving gold-edged
Like a gift box I’d lift open each time hoping
For a spread on rainforests
Or coral reefs.

Orchids & morphos & macaws,
or clownfish & sea stars & translucent shrimp
All spot-lit with a flash like old-time movie stars:
The Great Barrier Follies.

It was the closest thing I had
To glamour.
I swooned for the parade of colors:
Emerald & crimson & cobalt & aqua marine
& pale & bright yellows & that orange-spiked pink
That they call living coral,
Like our June garden, cornered between the kitchen and the porch,
Let loose and grown into a world.

But now we are bleaching the coral from the reefs
And flattening the forest into strips of dun
To fuel and feed this colorless existence.
Not even we.
Some 100 companies
Forcing metal straws into the earth to suck it
Blank—“I drink your milkshake!”—Until:
The largest living structure in the world has become
The largest dying structure in the world.

But if the rest of us could vote tomorrow, everyone on earth
The question: What would you rather have?

The viaduct, the strip mall, the long commute, the cul-de-sac, the low-ceilinged office, the low-ceilinged factory, the high rise, the dormitory, the oil derrick, the oil slick, the starless night, the gray and poison sky that should be blue

Or

The silver eggs kept safe in the white-tipped anemone, the light-pink forests of the staghorn, the yellow corals swirling like neurons, the sun-specked turtles and the pulsing jellies, the bright-backed nudibranchs, the angel fish, the parrot fish, the parrots, the bromeliads, the smiling sloths, the dolphins pink like baby mice, the frogs blazing like yield signs—

Even if you never visited, even if you never saw a picture, even if you just knew that it was there

Would you make the current trade
Given a free choice?

Image credit Acropora / CC BY 3.0

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