My daughter is stretched out on white sand, feeding the ocean.
She says she is taming the sea — its wildness nibbles
at her fingers. We have seen no dolphins today,
nor any stingrays nor whales nor anything bigger
than spiky brown coral that has washed up on the shore.
The wind seems endless; she asks me, one day:
What happened to summer? And I don’t say:
We killed it. I don’t say: I think this might be it,
I think this might be how it is now,
Keening winds howling down, furies whipping
Across nightmares. I don’t say: I am being flayed
Slowly by the sands and the dust and the moulds
Carried by these winds, flayed from the inside out.
For days afterwards, becoming weeks, I am clogged
to the gullet. I wonder if she will ever remember a day
Where the sun was gentle and the world was still,
or whether I will tell her about it when she’s older,
as we hunker down trying to escape the jagged wind
or sweat parched in the brown heat and
she will scoff at me, fairytales from another world.
It seems we live only in extremes now: firestorms,
Tornadoes, cyclones, heatwave, drought, flood…
After barely an hour on the beach, her skin is red and angry
with sunburned bitterness. I wonder what I’ve done,
bringing a child into this world of calamity and desperation.
Every day is another exercise in lying convincingly:
that I am okay, that we are okay, that she will be okay.
My sweet child wants to open our home to a new sister,
a refugee from Syria, and I explain that we might need
to be gentle with such a child, unsure what she’s seen.
I do not explain that I cannot watch one more video
of bleeding children, of dying children, of men
crying over still bodies (I thought starving ones in
Africa were bad in the 80s; but charity porn, like
all other porn, needs to up the intensity for impact
in the face of apathy.)
My sweet child doesn’t know yet that concentration camps
exist and people — innocent people — in her own country
are woken in the night and wrenched away into gulags.
My sweet child is shocked to discover that most if not all of
her favourite animals are endangered and she literally
makes lemonade and raises $77.35 for the World Wildlife Fund
so that they will save the animals. I don’t tell her
that we are headed for the sixth great extinction.
I don’t tell my sweet child that she might need to know
how to perform an abortion safely because it might be illegal.
I don’t tell my sweet child that I’m scared she
might need to use her golden hair and her azure
eyes to lie about her Jewish heritage and smuggle
her mother to safety.
I let her believe that she can tame the sea.