The East River is the murderer.
I am the victim.
Empty Poland Spring water bottles bobbing on the surface, pulling ducks
with their incandescent murmuring,
their sly, sweet, subtle song.
Too late. The duck nudges a bottle,
slips below the water's surface,
tugs the bottle with it.
Ten seconds pass. Then twenty.
It's been ten minutes now and the duck hasn't
The other ducks swim
from that patch of gleaming brown water,
knowing that the bottles will hurt them,
don't want to be contaminated
by the shimmering feathers
bobbing in the dark, cruel water
where that first duck went under
and didn't come back out.
Only the feathers,
a shining green from his neck,
carried by the current,
enjoying a gentle washing.
The water is clear now.
Debris floating everywhere in clumps.
They repulse me
in the way that
cigarette butts on the sidewalk,
trampled by shined loafers and blade stilettos,
Man builds, man destroys.
Woman creates, woman forgets.
Child watches, child inherits.
Nature? Nature waits,
and the water has been waiting
wants a reprieve.
has swallowed humankind's excrements
and we always, always
have unwanted results,
so we feed them
I pity it,
but reject my pity.
Add to traditions.
Born, like everyone else in the world.
Death will come soon, too soon,
but I will not lament.
I will greet it with a smile, embrace it,
"My old friend! So lovely to see you;
care for a cup of tea?"
Death will decline politely, of course, tell me
that I am the guest in his domain,
that he will serve me, not I him.
And he will present me with a soup of water
and trash. He will wink
say that this is what my last sight was,
so it must be my favorite.
I will start feeling the prickle of dread
somewhere in my small intestine
(I don't know where exactly;
I should have paid more attention in Biology)
and push the bowl away,
tell Death that I'm full.
But I can't because it is too heavy,
heavy with my own sorrows and guilt.
The only way to rid myself of the
panic soup is to drain it myself
while Death finally returns my smile.
Now is my time.
I can allow the water to take me.
I won't fight, just slip under
and not come back out.
Or I can turn,
spin on the ball of my left foot,
plant one foot in the concrete.
Pretend I came here only to jog,
but not around the water,
away from it
and be afraid of the water
until I succumb to fear.
This is no choice to make, not now.
The guilt is too much.
If I jump I say that my life isn't worth living,
that I hate the world so much
that I would do anything
to escape it.
That's not true.
It's just that
we've taken so much from the water,
sullied its gleam,
killed its fish,
used it only to serve us.
Used it as our slave.
As humans, we owe that water something,
more than one of us,
more than one life,
but one life is a start.
I can't leave now,
after promising to begin to repay that debt.
I brace my sneaker on the railing.
Reach down, shove a rock into my pocket.
Then scramble back up.
Bend my knees,
about to fall.
"You can't go! Please, don't jump!
You don't owe the water anything!"
It's not me who shouts.
I turn my head to see who believes
she can change my mind.
And I lose my balance.
This piece won an Honorable Mention in the 2015 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.