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Birth of an Ocean

July 27, 2019

Millennia it slept.           

Still, dark, cold.           

Under a taut white skin,           

Smooth and thin in places -           

Thick, tough, ridged in others.          

Aeons of silence.           

No breath of wind could reach it.           

No shaft of sun.           

It waited.            

Aglow in ghostly half-light half of each year,                  

Then suspended in months of polar night.     

Waiting. 

While no star shone upon it. 

While dancing emerald borealis fingers could not touch it. 

Sleeping. 

Unborn.

 

Then came spring. 

Dawn at last. 

With the tilt of an axis, vernal warmth,

Sweet yet powerless,

When ancient ice ridges towered,

Twenty metres high.

For a few short months, 

Spring pushed back the edges,

Of the vast inter-continental blanket of ice,

Barely peeking under,

Before the axis tipped back.

Before winter reasserted,

Its polar rights.

 

No, not that spring. 

Not that dawn. 

But the dawn of civilization. 

Carbon spring. 

A time span one can measure,

By the life of a tree,

Was all it took. 

Not time measured in mountains. 

Nor species. 

Not planets. 

Nor stars. 

In the time it takes for a bristlecone pine,

To struggle up one meter tall, 

Man built, 

And burned, 

And now will fall.

 

Carbon was unearthed.

Untethered. 

Gasified. 

Liquefied. 

Spewed. 

Belched. 

Billowed. 

Burped. 

Carbon slaves,

Worked day and night,

That we might dally,

With frivolity, 

O luxury!

 

And so it began. 

A scale of vernal melt, 

Unseen for millions of years. 

With carbon spring, 

The ice thinned. 

Weakened. 

More melted in spring. 

Less formed in fall.

More rain, less snow. 

Each year, 

More bare ocean revealed. 

Not a hint. 

Or a fringe. 

Not an infant strip of dark water,

To sparkle in the sun. 

But a puddle bigger than Poland. 

A swath to dwarf Sweden. 

A ribbon like Russia unfurled.

 

Escaping its icy womb, 

The young ocean basks in the sun’s warmth. 

It feels the breeze.

It ripples,

Where once there was only calm.

Growing warmer, 

Bolder, 

It rises up and dances with the wind. 

Waves are born. 

The ancient, barren shores know not of waves.

Soils slump. Bleed. 

Headlands cascade to rubble.

 

The ice sheet, too, knows nothing of waves.

Ice is mobile, active, tensile. 

But also brittle. 

Waves tease its ancient underbelly, 

Bringing warm peril,

And shocks hitherto unknown. 

Unbearable.

 

Within the lifespan of a house cat, 

This newborn ocean will be free, 

Each summer,

Of all its ancient skin of ice. 

Gone the cold white reflecting shoulder,

It turned to the skies.

It will frolic and play, 

Beneath stars and northern lights. 

It will know the wind and the sun,

And borrow of their power.

It will absorb.

As it dances and flexes, 

Its dark depths will drink endlessly,

Of the heat of the sun. 

Perish, its faithful creatures, 

Who can know no other home but ice.

While in its depths, 

Long-frozen dangers will soften and seep.

 

Behold! 

A newborn ocean, 

Growing to adolescence. 

Kicking. 

Thrashing. 

Youth’s frenzy of energy.

What patience has youth,

For the ancients? 

For the encircling coasts. 

The embattled floes. 

The polar cycles.

 

The birth of an ocean. 

The end of an age. 

The age of mammals. 

The age of Man.


 

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