By Shelby Merriman
11th grade, Bear Creek High School, CO

With lines from “How Texas’s Zombie Oil Wells Are Creating an Environmental Disaster Zone” by Clayton Aldern, Christopher Collins, and Naveena Sadasivam, a Pulitzer Center reporting project

Before my siblings and I were born,
My mother was filled with maverick energy.

Her body was one of rural splendor with forests and whispering fields covering her arms and legs and
seas cascading from her eyes to tint her lips blue-green like a nymph.
She smelled of citrus orchards and rolled the light of the Sun between her tongue and the roof of her mouth. 

                                                                     Her eyes smiled effervescently and she overflowed.

Then, my siblings knew life
And asked her to become their Light.                                     She agreed.

When the Sun peeked up she was free. 
When the Sun was high she was bound.
When the Sun fell so did she. 
When the Sun was stripped for parts                         she was locked in a cage 
                                                                                                                                    reinforced with steel casing and cement in
                                                                                                                                     order to catch any of her liquid gold tears.

By the time I was born, she was an ancient dried-up sea.
her arms and back were overgrown with wild, poisoned, vegetation
her hands had grown entangled in abandoned pipes that welled with anger like ticking time bombs
one third of her was dark and bruised with wounds that bled ink when prodded

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 The ink swirled the laws into loops around the feet of her captors that they stepped over with ease.

          My passive existence marred her in the ways my siblings had.
When will we heal her wounds,
My siblings and I?

Shelby Merriman is a senior at Bear Creek High School in Lakewood, CO. Growing up in Colorado, she has always been surrounded by oil production, witnessing one of the major factors responsible for climate change. She is passionate about science and its ability to help the world—especially in regards to climate change—and hopes her poetry and her work in STEM will make a meaningful difference. Shelby's poetry combines thoughtful observation of the world around her with deeply personal storytelling that urges each individual to take part in social change and the outcome of their world.

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