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Great Barrier Reef: Skeleton in the Sea

Unlike the thousands who marched in San Francisco’s Rise for Climate, Jobs & Justice last Saturday, it was a minor triumph for Mobile, Alabama to have a rally at all in a downtown square. Ten feet above ground blue ribbons circled pillars of the bandstand where speakers stood. I said these were not decorations—they marked where sea level would be if Greenland melted.

The ribbons recalled a little renegade foray that tied similar ribbons across downtown to warn of the danger about fifteen years ago. Those empowered to take effective action ignored this and generally went about making things worse, as did most of the rest of us.

So now the situation is more dire and urgent, as shown by the ongoing fatal bleaching decline of the huge coral reef off the northeast coast of Australia. Its fate is the canary in the ocean for us, if we were wise enough to heed the message it conveys.

In hopes of helping spark remedies at last, I said this:

Radiant layered living home
Built by corals laboring eons
Spiney structure clad in colors
Brought by every
Oozing, crawling, spreading, clinging, pulsing
Darting, dancing, floating, meditating thing.

No Babylonian hanging garden
No rose windowed cathedral
No Aztec Xochimilco
Rivals its hued teeming miracle
Great Barrier Reef
Luminous coral city in the sea.

Great Barrier Reef
Long holding all in balance
Cannot escape the saturation
Bath of rising fever
Brought by forces from afar
Blind to all below their sight
A slow relentless
Oceanic heat stroke
Expelling life
Bleaching coral white
Great Barrier Reef
Skeleton in the sea.

Ashes to ashes
Dust to dust
Mix with water
That is us
We are water
That stood up and walked
Water that learned
To think and talk.

Imagined lords of land and air
We melt the ice
And the ocean rises
To reclaim us
Our feeble cities
Vanish beneath the waves
We and all our works
Become
Like the Barrier Reef prophecy
Skeletons in the sea.

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DAVID UNDERHILL lives in Mobile, Alabama. He can be reached at drunderhill@yahoo.com

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