Journalism in Verse – EST. 2016

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So It’s Come To This

in Environment by

I stood with my mother at the climate strike
Two adults pushed to the sidelines where we belonged
Let the children go first

We waited behind orange cones as
Ten thousand teenagers walked past
And I asked my mother if this was what it was like
During Viet Nam – the last time she’d seen children march for their lives

I was one of the children, she said
But they weren’t coming for my life
Only your father’s

A little boy walks by holding a sign:
If you won’t act like adults, we will

I have no sign
Only a desk job
And an apartment

I ask my mother what the adults did, all those decades ago
Did they come to the marches?
Did they speak out?

No, she said
Not like we are now
She pauses and turns to me:
But they were thinking what we are thinking

What’s that? I asked
She took my hand. You know

And then I knew
The words of generations rode on the backs of my 30 years
And my mother and I looked out into the sea of children
And recited:

I was supposed to give you the world
Not the storm
I was supposed to give you the garden
Not the fire
I was supposed to make promises I could keep

I built a room for you
Where you would sit and learn to master the universe
I told you to stay there, to listen, to wait
I rained answers down upon you like confetti
Now I watch you leave that room in self-defense

I told us both the same lie—
I did not know what I was doing as I did it
Burning as I burned it
Consuming as I swallowed it whole

I always thought there would be enough for you
I always thought there would be enough for you
I always thought there would be enough for you

My mother and I took a long, hungry breath together on the sidewalk
And watched a generation ask for what we’d promised.

 

________

Zoe Young is a writer living in San Francisco. She completed her writing MFA at California College of the Arts. You can find her work in McSweeney’s Quarterly: Issue 53 and The Bold Italic.

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