By Taeyeon Han
11th grade, Arnold O. Beckman High School, CA

With lines from "Living Planet: Capturing Carbon in Costa Rica" by Daniel Grossman and Dado Galdieri, a Pulitzer Center reporting project

i. self-destruction
They’re standing on the banks of a river — in a gully – cutting through a wall of emerald foliage kin:
The trees know all of our secrets. After all,
we hide them in the curves of her voluptuous leaves and pray the silver lining doesn’t unravel —
phloem intact, xylem singing.
We are stillborn: the forest, our weeping mother.

ii. the dust
Swinging freshly sharpened machetes, we soak the world in fine dust and bile-like fumes.
This dust! How are we to breathe? — my society cries.
Before my throat hollows out, the trees bathe in extra carbon dioxide,
marmalade on verdure bodies: chlorophyll in action.
Close your eyes, and prolene weaves through your lids, tight.
It vaguely smells of soot… I say, Where’s the fire? The dust
settles into our nests and strengthens in the gut.

iii. the savior
We continue to write our eulogy and the trees give us an all-knowing look;
the venerated evergreen evaporates our breed of self-destruction.
We are suffocating yet still breathing.

Taeyeon is a student in California. His preferred medium for creative writing is poetry, but he thoroughly enjoys creative fiction. He has been nationally recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and has been published in the National Poetry Quarterly among other literary magazines. As a climate activist, he hopes to create a more green, sustainable future by raising awareness through his advocacy initiatives and creative writing. 

Read more winning entries from the 2021 Fighting Words Poetry Contest.