Anya Trofimova, Grand Prize Winner

Observations Inspired by Rising Sea Levels

Observe: 700,000 young people take to the streets in a global strike, the young
are spilling into the squares like a contagion, the young are tearing this city up
with their vegetarian teeth. when Greta speaks or chickens cluck you can only
hear choking, like a drainage pipe at leaves.

sometimes I picture our road, after. the earth winking on its side slowly, obsessively,
and all the children turned to vegetables. make no mistake, we are learning with
our mouths brimming with foraged pearls. but looking away makes it too easy to
misplace. our caution leads to strange decisions. my mother puts the keys in the fridge,
wishes her body into something cold and sweet, presses her lips to the coconut as if in prayer.

Observe: the particles of water in the pond reproduce, decide among themselves to
divide like a foetus or an amoeba. they become an ocean, swallow the birds.
how many die before the flock loses faith? there is something in the sky but it keeps
on breaking. my mouth is all feathery, teeth itch with tiny fleas running between the shafts.

these days I feel seaworthy, I decorate my hair and call it a holy thing. in the shower
the gills come naturally. what a terrible way to love, the Pacific percolating through
my throat. hello? is this the repairman? no, no problem. just China melting on my
bathmat for five days and five nights. how much for an emergency repair?

when I am still young, I beg the sea to unmake me, flat like a seabed and several miles
green, where urchins break skin and salt swells my eyes shut. the water crumples and
recrumples like shot silk, imitates the sounds of everything it drowns: peristalsis pulling
down huge mouthfuls of sunlight like meat.

Observe: the camphor has caught red earth between the roots and the trees pray for rain,
slowly starving to life, and the weatherman pins me down when I scream fire! 
like it’s always been too late. this is progress, he says. quick, better get your gas masks
while they still sell them. there is smoke in Exodus. there is smoke in Leviticus.
there is smoke in every cell of your body and if you are burned you will rise
to the heavens like a Roman sacrifice.

my mother hums of aloe gel against sunburn. I trap the heat like a boil, under glass jars.
today, all the bees are dead, and the usury has been forgiven. I drip with honey, sprout
stingers from every orifice. this is the story where I forget the ending, tempt the children
out of their nests like disorientated baby turtles. this, the story too wide for the tv screen,
where I play heroine and save the fish from their slow drowning in rising sea-levels but cry
at the sight of blood. this time I am ready for everything. I megamouth. I pull up the
flowerbeds. I pull up the tides and swarm the shores. I fan a forest fire with both my hands.
a bird feeds its beak into the ground and comes up wanting. this is the story where
I drop my jaw into a crater. I find wet sea stones, clean like a thumb taken into the
mouth, and mistake their shine for faux gold. soft and moon-heavy I watch my
belly burst with floodwater, back rupture to accommodate wings.

In creating this poem I drew upon the library archives, joining together found lines and interspersing them with my own, in an attempt to show the union between past and present in the tackling of the climate crisis. Through creating a piece of mixed provenance, I hope to suggest some of the collective attempts that need to be taken to reverse our society’s marks on the environment. Some of the authors referenced are Lily Zhou, Christina Im, Isabella Cho, Jessica Bixel and Alisha Yi, as well as other non-fiction texts including news reports and weather predictions, often altered substantially.

I actually learned about the contest online, from the competition website itself. I discovered DoveTales a while ago and have avidly read multiple issues, so when I found out that there was an opportunity for young poets to get involved I knew that I had to give it a shot.

It goes without saying, that I am incredibly passionate about using literature as a medium for social change and for uniting stories across the world. Especially in a world of isolationism, I believe that writing can elevate the war-cries and heartache of those facing quotidian oppression and injustices, however great or small. In fact, I first discovered poetry as an alternative platform for self-expression and have dedicated myself to raising awareness around issues such as the stigma around mental health, inequality and climate change through my words ever since.

As a developing writer, I feel immensely honoured to have been awarded The Writing for Peace prize and to receive the validation of judges. But I also hope that in receiving recognition from the contest and through the publication of my work, I will be able to access a wider audience with my words. The effects of climate change are very tangible and if we do not act now, then we may never have a second chance.

Anya Trofimova is a 15 year-old poet from London, where she studies at St Paul’s Girls’ School. Her work has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies, including Planet in Peril (Fly on the Wall Press) and Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal (Pallina Press), and has been recognised by the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award, Saltaire Festival Poetry Competition, Erbacce Prize 2020 and the Felix Dennis Young Poets Competition, among others. When she is not writing herself, she works on the editorial boards of the Siblíní Journal, Cathartic Youth Literary Magazine and Sandpiper Magazine.

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