By Casey Costello
6th grade, F.A. Day Middle School, MA

With lines from “Louisiana’s Coastline is Crumbling. These Tribes Know How to Save It” by Lorena O’Neil and Akasha Rabut, a Pulitzer Center reporting project

In a place
where the waves 
are always crashing
and the wind
is always blowing
and the birds
are always calling

In a place
where the air
is always salty
and the docks
are always swaying
and the tide
is always
in, out
in, out,
there is destruction
and there are people
who have always known
this place
as home

In a place 
where the plants
are always growing
and the tribes
are always teaching
and always learning,
people are being
stripped of their rights
they are being told
they cannot fix it
and asked
Why not move inland?

In a place
where the land 
was once healthy
and the inhabitants
were once kind
and the nature 
was once thriving,
the original
the first
the true
of this land
must fight to share
their voices
their beliefs
their wisdom
while others
are trying 
to fix
this sacred land
that don’t know how 
to do it

In a place
where the boots
are always tromping
and the shovels
are always digging
and the machines 
are always lifting

In a place
where the sand
is receding
and the shells
are cracking
and the dolphins
are dying,
these tribes know how
to fix it
stop it
save it,
but what do they do
if no one
is listening?

They begin to ask questions
that no one else
has asked:
Who are these projects
designed for?

They begin to speak up
for what is right:
The first step is having
to prove who you are
and that you’re still there.

They begin to fight 
with words
for what will save
all of us

In a place
where people 
are forgotten
and cultures
are lost
and words
are quieted,
we must look past
our fears
and we must consider
that we 
should live 
in a place 
where everyone 
has a home
and everyone 
has a voice
and everyone
can be our saviors

We must live
in a place
where people 
will not be quieted
when they learn 
how to use
their voices

Casey Costello is a rising seventh grader at F.A. Day Middle School in Newton, Massachusetts. Her favorite school subjects are History and English, and she likes to spend her free time reading, writing, or hanging out with friends. Casey really enjoyed the opportunity to enter her first poetry contest, and hopes to make a difference in the world with her writing. She believes that everyone should have equal rights, and that everyone should be able to speak up for their beliefs.

Read more winning entries from the 2023 Fighting Words Poetry Contest.