i. we walked along the brilliant blue, toes kissed by the warm sand, wild hair teasing in and out with the current. my sister giggled, pointing at the dolphins leaping out of the water. splashes drew her down the ocean floor. she desperately searched for a flash of vibrancy-- like she saw in the pictures. but she’s too young to understand. ii. i sat beside her sleeping form, rubbing her back: her shirt already soaking with sweat. her lips were parched, her brow wrinkled. what’s wrong? i whispered into her ear, i watched a single word tumble from her lips: everything. her eyes shuttered open: delirious frenzied panicked. her mouth opened wide and a SCREAM pierced my ears, echoing inside my head until my vision came in and out of focus. iii. i emerged into a bleached photograph. i saw through my sister’s dull eyes. i saw the waves washing onto the shore, but the water was no longer blue, the sand no longer soft, the dolphins no longer dancing. i saw plastic jellyfish fl ing through mounds of oat bottle cap chains. i saw the oil S P I L L shiny tentacles, charging into lungs of sea turtles, strangling the surface with black and staining the world with ink. but i also saw my little sister— clenching her teeth from the pain of glass-littered sand— reaching down to pick up a rusted bottle can, bearing the thousand year-old problems of humanity upon her single back.
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