Last fall, I worked on putting together a mini art installation about climate refugees for a class. I collaborated with two of my friends from Nepal; one made a beautiful video, compiling statistics and interviews, while the other displayed some of his photography of the environment, overlaying landscape images of Abu Dhabi and Nepal. I wrote a poem in the perspective of a climate refugee – or at least, attempted to write one. Here it is:


the sea was my first friend.

i was

three years old when it taught me

what colours were –

the silver of still waters

at dawn,

the cotton blue of late afternoon,

a copper sheet at sunset, and the

ink of waves at 10pm.


the sea was my first teacher.

it taught me how to count – 1….2…3…

the ocean has a music

older than our bones in the sand.

a rhythm more ancient than the pulse in our necks.


in the evenings, i would sit

by the hem of its skirt.

my father would bring the fishing line

and we would reach into the ocean’s lap

for gifts,

return home with dinner

spend the days washing salt out of our fingernails.

the sea taught me

the most ordinary of loves there is:

friendship. of trust – give and take, give and take

out and in, rise and fall, tide beneath my toes, tide beneath my feet,

tide and its music.


and to feel.

the sea taught me what it is to feel.

peace is that blue womb

where everything is all at once meaningless and meaningful.

happiness is the spiderwebs of sunlight

on morning waves.

sadness is the tide coming out, coming in.

a tune without feeling.


and i learnt from the sea

what fury is.

a different kind of fury than my father’s

when i steal an extra piece of fish. this kind of fury

could make the world stop breathing, my mother said

the earth is a clay pot

but we won’t stop baking it. she tells me

nature is sweating from the heat, it weeps with fatigue.

the oceans threaten to tip

like tears from under eyelids. far away, brazil shaves off its beard

and china smokes a cigarette.

i ask her, what am i supposed to do with these fairytales?

she takes my hand and tells me

the ocean is boiling.

don’t you believe it?

one day, this womb will break.

but we won’t be born again.


today, it is quiet.

mother always says be afraid of too much silence.

this earth was made for music.

in the air there is a violence. the sea trembles

like the mind of prince hamlet.

the dogs and chickens are perched on higher ground.

eyes wide open, mouths agape, while

my mother stares at the water. for

today, it is quiet.


the ocean trembles with stillness.

while something moves within, like a creature turning in

the womb it’s been living in.

the water feels as if it’s entered my head

a thought metastasizing in the brain.

in the great amniotic sac of the sea

there stirs a beginning and an end.

i remember my mother saying

once it ruptures

we will not be born again


and suddenly it rushes

like a volcano blooming outwards.

this kind of fury is different.

this is where the world goes blue

with wetness and ruin.

i watch my mother stand alone in the water

like a crab clinging hopelessly onto a rock that isn’t there.

the world is breaking around her and i think

the sea has taught me its final lesson:

what it is to be betrayed.


now my home hangs on a picket fence

like a used up tissue discarded in a bin. i went back

saw my childhood

burnt out like a cigarette.

there was nobody left. i lost my parents

to the ocean’s music

it engulfed them, led them astray

like the pied piper and his flute that day.


so i moved to the capital

where the sea only exists

on postcard images.

i lived amongst the traffic jams, the square buildings and landfills.

worked on and for nothing.

and every night, i heard the call of my friend, the rush of that last wave –

goodbye, it seemed to say.

it took everything from me

and left.


we spent so many days plundering the sea

plunging our fingers, our feet and fishing lines in.

of course it turned back

and fished us out instead. but we do not stop

our thievery. it boils with anger

yet we do not stop hurting it

then turning to ask for its embrace.

what can it do

but rage? this earth was made for music

it cannot stay still.


these days i watch national geographic

on my neighbor’s tv screen.

they say the sea will always exist

but will we?

will we?

we are the traitors.

in our blood, in our sweat, in our teardrops and wombs

there is saltwater, little pieces of the ocean

we have stolen for ourselves.


my mother used to say friendship

is give and take, give and take.

but all we do is take,

of course the sea will turn

and give us that embrace.

unlike us, it keeps its promises.

one day, it will take everything back

every little piece

and we will not be born again.

we will not be born again.


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