and it's gone
Writing by Daphne Zhu
It’s satisfying, the rip of the paper from the tattered binding of the journal, otherwise known as my morgue of worthless monologues. Scooped from the bottom of the waste pile in my old quarters and looking only a couple years old. A token of my past, but it seems like one from another world.
I entertain myself with the thing as I trek to the factories today. Past the “river” that is now more acid and pesticide than water, and down the asphalt lane my feet know well.
The illusions captured in these scribbles, suggesting there ever was a world before this concrete warren—ridiculous, my head says.
. . .the oak is gone, a hole in the landscape outside my window, a monument hacked away to pile more power lines into the air. And I remember the last time a woodpecker visited, clinging to the oak branch that hangs over my window, turning its bright eyes on me, and I wonder if that’s going to be the last time I see the bird with its fiery red crest. . .
. . .past the end of the butterfly month and not a sign, not a single flash of orange wing, and I don’t know where they’ve gone or if they’re still out there somewhere or snuffed out like a flame. Left only in memory, and yet I feel like a piece of my memory has flickered away along with the butterflies in their swirls of color. . .
. . .I wonder how no one sees like I do, how the woods and their music and their theater of life have been cut up and carted away, how the howls and roars and growls and whistles and trills are silenced, how the air my lungs drink in feels like poison, how the black sky swallows the sun and the moon, how the last pockets of blue in the lakes are buried under mountains of metal scraps. And I wonder if they do see, but then I wonder why no one glances twice, lifts a finger, says a word. But then what about the girl in the polyester T-shirt and hand around the pencil riddling this paper? You, staring the apocalypse in the face, watching the world as you know it drain of life. Staring and watching. . .
The foolish girl I was might have found her face wet with tears as the pages I flick into the poisoned river one after another are devoured by the acid waters.
And the memories come in a flood. Within the choked, murky depths before me, there is the splashing of a child’s feet in cold water, the prodding at a laughing reflection in a crystalline surface, the chasing after a dragonfly’s erratic flight on grassy banks, the imitating of the warbles coming from the big oak above and the croaks coming from below.
A fleeting spark of emotion rouses me, and then there’s no more. No aching for times long gone, no pining for times that will never return. Nothing but the black wind sweeping through my hollow heart, as the whims of a foolish girl disappear into the toxic torrent like her friends the dragonflies and the warblers and the frogs and the oaks and the woodpeckers and the butterflies did from a toxic world.