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Poem in response to Life Below Water
February 2019

Song of the Mermaid

    By Amrita Bhasin

A plastic bottle

Left carelessly on the beach

Drifts across oceans

Choking a seabird


On Hanauma Bay

A paradisiacal cove of coral

I snorkeled in the calm, iridescent water

In a dreamscape of underwater life


The ocean is a large blue fabric

An expansive quilt covering the space between continents

A turquoise tapestry teeming with schools of fish

But an oil spill oozes an imposing ink stain

A puddle swallowing the fish


The sea looks beautiful-

It is stunning from the outside

But 300 feet below sea level

There are spaces of wasteland

Plastic debris threatens life

Jellyfish, albatrosses, barnacles

Drown in the unknown vortex


The future ocean should be magnificent

Inside and out,

A fluid and lucid world

An aquamarine drapery

Sheltering all it contains


A place unlike the present

Where upon swimming in the ocean,

I am more likely to encounter a plastic bag drifting on the surface

Than a brightly colored fish

Flittering among the waves


I can hear the mermaid’s song

Insistent and urgent

Calling out to us who grace the land,

Will we save the realm of myths and legends?

Sailors, shipwrecks, buried treasures

The lighthouse blinks a siren song

Will we heed the call?


The great white shark is defenseless

The deep blue waters are powerless

Our drift nets have spread like tentacles

Enveloping all in their path


Every day I hear the mermaid’s song,

It’s there every time a plastic bag

Litters the beach,

Sea lions wash up on the sand

A humpback whale helplessly tangles in a net

The mermaid sings her urgent song


Will we tell a future generation

Of scuba diving in the Caribbean

Riding the waves in Santa Cruz

Sailing on the Mediterranean Sea?

What if they ask us

Why did you not do anything?

Why did you not heed the mermaid’s song?

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