To the beached whales with bellies filled with plastic

Day 223

photo by Michelle Johnsen

photo by Michelle Johnsen

Is it beautiful

where you live,

in the ocean both dark and deep?

It is a strange world, yours. With currents and tides and sand instead of soil.

But then, my world

on dry land

is strange also,

to one accustomed to a life lived in the water.

I once saw a skeleton,

belonging to one of your kind

hanging from the ceiling

of some great museum.

Inside the spot where your

flipper would be

there were the fine bones of a hand

5 fingered

just like mine.

I imagined

lifting that enormous skeleton

of your ancestor

from its great height

in the air

and carrying it

over the land

to the sea

and releasing it

into the waves.

A proper burial

for a citizen of the deep.

There is no way to warn


No words and no way to tell you

that those jelly- fish-like creatures

moving in the currents

are not actually alive.

No way to explain to your

intelligent and thoughtful mind

that what you are seeing

swirling through your home,

tangling around your children,

mixing with your precious food

is plastic,

chemical compounds

created by a culture

forever stuck in the moment,


ravenous and devouring,

and unable to learn from our mistakes.

So that even as your people

with the slick, gray backs,

and beautiful, sad eyes

wash onto shores

with bellies filled with trash,


asking for help,

we refuse to change our ways

and instead look the other way










with money we don’t have

and throwing it away

so that the whole planet is choking on our


How can I explain it to you

when I don’t understand it myself?

Or maybe you already do know

that those floating

streams of junk

are poison

but are helpless to

stop the debris

from entering your mouth

as you swallow great gulps of the tiniest krill.

And maybe

your people are

coming ashore

with a message so important

that they are willing to sacrifice their own lives

to send us a plea

written in the contents

of their giant stomachs

filled to the brim

with trash.


How could I explain?

How could one

who can carry out conversations with loved ones hundreds of miles away

using ancient underwater

howlings of songs


why our people

refuse to listen?

And the worst of it,


that even if I could stand next to the heaving flank of one so ancient and wise

and whisper apologies

it would still be a lie,

simple words to make me feel better.

Because I’m one of the monsters

with plastic in my house, on the packaging of the things I buy, in my children’s toys

and on this dumb contraption I’m sitting here

writing these pointless words on.

Even if my salty tears mixed with the water still drying on the back of the great beached whale with belly full of plastic crying help,

even if I fell to my knees and begged for forgiveness,

it would not change the fact that I am as guilty as anyone else

of poisoning, and defiling, and polluting

a world I can admit I know very little about.

And that’s what keeps me awake at night

and sends chills up my spine,

has me sitting at this computer

night after night

hoping to make sense of it all.

I’m as guilty as the rest of them.

So how can I explain?

I’d ask for your forgiveness whales,

but I know I don’t deserve it.

I am so, so sorry.

I love you.

Thank you for listening,



photo by Michelle Johnsen

photo by Michelle Johnsen


I love you Sarah because you love this earth with an almost frightening fierceness my own heart recognizes. Thank you for thinking about the bees. Thank you for writing about them, writing for them. Thank you for loving the world with your beautiful, and broken heart. Mine is beautiful and broken too. 

Here is a guest piece by Sarah Henry, activist, poet, earthling, and my friend. Thank you Sarah!

Beehives:  Natural beehives are naturally occurring structures occupied by honeybee colonies, such as hollowed-out trees, while domesticated honeybees live in man-made beehives



“If Prussia can pervert the benign influences of education to the support of arbitrary power, we can surely employ them for the support and perpetuation of republican institutions.”

Horace Mann ‘Father of Education’, Seventh Annual Report to The

Massachusetts Board of Education 1843


“Our family survived it,” said Charmaine Shawana, a member of the tribal council.  “That’s our story.  That’s where we come from.  We’re remarkable because we survived it.  They tried to assimilate us, but they couldn’t.”

          Adrian Hedden, Under the shadow of history: Abandoned Native

American boarding school brings to light one tribe’s struggles


“The problem is that you can’t have progress this way; especially in the sciences and engineering.  That’s a problem because corporations need science and engineering.  If you don’t have innovation, you’re really in trouble.  So they have to encourage creativity, and independence because you can’t just copy what someone else told you; – you have to be challenging things all the time, challenging everything, thinking new thoughts.  And there you’ve got a real contradiction.  It’s hard to train people to be challenging and creative, yet ensure somewhere else in their lives they’re conformists, obedient, and never think.”

Noam Chomsky, Education is a System of Indoctrination of the



the hive: part 1



in the prisons called public schools

i’m a substitute;

which means i show up late-

with too many things-

overflowing from a tote bag-

looking like an extinct animal.


and the kids

with crusty




cry when they’re supposed to laugh-

laugh when they’re supposed to cry-


photocopier circles…


little moon faces!

question mark eyes…

i can’t pretend that i don’t see you-

under the bad,

really bad lights

that hurt our insides…



let’s run outside-

loops around the crazies,

dumb dead

push push cars…


we’ll sing songs like the bees!

floral choraling-



soil loving…

and make paper

from the sky…


because reading isn’t coal mining

and math isn’t cement casings for a bloody gas line




One response to “To the beached whales with bellies filled with plastic

  1. Both of these pieces posted here today are incredible, and both photos, too.
    And sign.

    I feel the self-condemnation too. And Sarah, I feel the same way any time I enter a school or see kids waiting for the school bus. It makes me feel queasy and claustrophobic.

    Oh, Ocean. I am so sorry. And oceans of sorry won’t clean the oil off anyone’s back – yours or mine. And it won’t purge the plastic from our guts.

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