thoughts before drowning by Benjamin Beckman

An undergraduate at Yale and native of L.A., Benjamin's piece explores the burden his generation bears from prior generations’ inattention to climate change and rising tides.


Text: Baylina Pu

Soprano: Jennifer Lindsay

Piano: Stephen Karr


From Benjamin:

Thoughts before drowning is an elegy for our planet that deals directly with humankind's past inaction to prevent the onset of climate change and global warming. It tells of an 'I' and a 'you', both metaphorically representing our species as a whole, who build great and beautiful things - who 'gave names to all the incarnations of the sky' - before the waters rise and bring a 'warm death'. Despite the onset of destruction, as humans, we here will still 'miss this', we will continue to 'linger among what is human'. And through all of this, we are still unconcerned with how our actions affect other species, our planet, and each other: we are in denial. When 'you ask if I write to anyone in particular in my poems', the only way we can answer is by refusing to give one without the pain becoming unbearable.



It doesn't hurt when you phrase it like this:

last spring, I learned how to speak in a way

that would make ice melt. We invented

a language together,

gave names to all the incarnations of the sky

until we ran out of colors. Afterwards,

I asked if you remembered what it felt like

to decay. You said it was nothing special.


You ask if I write to anyone in particular in my poems.

I do not answer.The sky does not write

to anyone in particular. When the water rose,

it brought all our forgotten words with it.

And you were right: it was simple and painless,

a warm death. The echoes of our old names

surrounded us as we submerged,

and I saw the sun rise above us, thinking

how I'll miss this, how despite everything

I still linger among what is human. Even

this planet personifies into a mother,

the water carrying me like a womb.

I ask myself how many other things

have I allowed to seep through me, and

how long will it take to wring out each one.


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