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They call it climigration, these experts on vast shoreline loss
and islands swept by rising seas.
So far it’s minimal. In Papua
New Guinea, a string of seven atolls
are awash. three thousand souls
are being relocated to a
famous island, Bougainville,
wrested from Japan in World War II.
The tundra that protects the Eskimo
village of Newtok from the Bering Sea
is gradually eroding as the glue
of permafrost beneath it thaws
and arctic water levels rise.
They’re going down and so
are all the rest of us—
Florida to Bangladesh
Malaysia to Manhattan
where lamplit Central Park will lurch
with Lady Liberty, her torch
aloft, Chinatown, Hell’s Kitchen,
Soho, Harlem, and the Bronx
into the Atlantic Ocean.
Despite outcries of purest angst
dikes won’t save the playing field
so blow a kiss to this drowned world.
The gods have spoken: yield.
Read more poems like “Going Down” in Maxine Kumin’s 2014 collection, And Short the Season.
My Response to “Going Down”…Don’t Read Until You Have Yours!
I live close to the Chesapeake Bay, where islands have been disappearing for decades. Of course, as someone who has nearly always lived near the water, I know that erosion is inevitable. The only way we can protect ourselves from it is not to live near the water. But we don’t need to help it along so much either!
As people, we are like nature. We are moving towards obliteration our entire lives. It’s something we must accept, and in a paradoxical way, also gives our lives meaning.
As I used to tell my International Baccalaureate students, who pass timed essay exams to receive their diplomas, anybody can do anything with unlimited time. Being able to get the job done, expeditiously, is the trick. Such is life.