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China Recycling #22, 2004, Edward Burtynsky

Her fingers must remember

the silk touch of the cherry flowers

and the prickly stems of bushes.


her palms

have become wrinkled and stiff-

shaped by the sharp edges of plastic.

Her wrists have become

accustomed to

bending toward the piles full of green waste

beside her frail body.

The film in her eyes

replaced by a crumbling world-

does her mind remember

the plants that hung over the buildings

like drapes?

The blue of her jacket,

the only remembrance

of the old world-

turquoise blue of the ocean,

salty and pristine,

stolen by a sweep of oil fog.


Writer's Note:

This photograph has many messages behind it, but to me it speaks a lot to the changes the world has experienced in the last one hundred years. In this poem, I imagined the world the woman in the picture had once experienced, and how she is experiencing the current world. It is depressing to think about how much the world has negatively changed in such a short amount of time. It is even more harrowing to imagine how the world might change in the upcoming years if we do not try to the best of our abilities to stop climate change.

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