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We’re Wasting Time -- slam poetry by Tabitha Parker-Theiss

When I was 5,

I wanted to be everything.

The first person on Mars

A writer who traces stories in the stars

about witches and fairies and magic.

In the stars,

I found new pictures.

I insisted,

that’s not Cassiopeia, that's my grandma.

I wanted to make the world and its people sing

be the first person to grow wings

or befriend a dragon

and become the princess of my own galaxy.

When I was 5,

anything was possible.

When I was 5, the bramble cay melomy went extinct.

It was the first mammal to go extinct because of climate change.

When I was 9,

I wanted to be a geologist.

At school, we made metamorphic rocks out of cookie dough and chocolate chips.

At home, I grew my rock collection.

I gave each rock a name and a story.

For my birthday, my dad took me to dig up fossils which made me decide that actually, I didn't want to be a geologist, I wanted to be a paleontologist.

I'd pretend I was a dinosaur.

I decided that if I were a dinosaur, I would be an herbivore.

When I was 9,

the world seemed small,

and I seemed big,

and all I did was wonder.

When I was 9, the concentration of climate-warming CO2 in the atmosphere passed 400 parts per million for the first time in human history.

When I was 12,

I watched Grey's Anatomy and decided

I wanted to be a surgeon.

it looked exciting, exhilarating,

it looked terrifying

but that’s what I liked about it.

Scalpel in hand, I would have power. I would have control.

And that logic may be flawed but the point is, I was excited.

I remember thinking a lot about future technology.

maybe there wouldn’t be surgeons anymore.

maybe doctors would be replaced by robots,

or maybe every disease and every illness will have been cured with a single pill.

it never occurred to me that there might not even be a future.

When I was 12, the first climate refugees in the U.S. left their homes after the Island of Jean Charles in Louisiana became just a few dots of green in the ocean of grey.

Today I am 16.

Every night I go to sleep, and every morning I wake up

I brush my teeth, I go to school

where I take career placement tests and adults tell me I have a future.

Some days, I listen

But most days, I struggle to care because if school has taught me anything, it’s math

and the math tells me that in 20 years, or maybe even 10, there will no longer be a path

to the future.

Why should I care about school

how do I think about my future when glaciers are melting into tears

begging us to change our ways

but nobody listens, nobody hears.

And I don't understand how people can plan for the future when the present is crumbling in on us like a mountain turning to ash.

I don’t understand how politicians can sit at their desks, drowning in tax dollars

when the flames that engulf the world just keep getting taller and taller.

I don’t understand how people can go to their 9-5s

driving their car,

air conditioning on high

how people dismiss this fatal threat as a problem for future generations.

as a problem for my generation

when last year, wildfires spread like optimism through Australia and California

when hurricanes plagued the U.S. with such frequency and force that they become a news story that nobody clicked on

when the arctic ice decreases while ocean levels increase causing floods and climate refugees.

I'd like to remind you, that the dinosaurs probably thought they had time too.

the dinosaurs

they ran out of time, and we will too.

there’s no higher power that will will this away

there are no witches or fairies or magic that will fix it.

this is on us.

this is the fault of people, humans, homo sapiens, the pinnacle of the Anthropocene

and it is our responsibility to fix it

and we’re wasting time.


Tabitha Parker-Theiss is a high school junior from Salt Lake City, Utah. She is a violinist and is passionate about creating social change through music and writing. She enjoys Utah's beautiful nature through climbing and skiing, but is excited to leave and explore the world. Tabitha likes to experiment with how words can impact people and the world. This is her first publication.

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