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Five Poems by Laurel Nakanishi

Is it unfair to ask you to hope?

Poetry | climate change, erasure, poetry
March 30, 2023

This piece is part of the Climate notebook, which features art by Katrina Bello.

It’s official: July was Earth’s hottest month on record

August 13, 2021

outdid itself
This new


G20 pledge to take climate action criticised for “lacking ambition

October 31, 2021

World leaders
have agreed


a commitment to


Another Sappy Love Poem About My Baby

(4 months old)

You were born in a pandemic. Masked and distant, 
you have learned to look first to our eyes. 

You were born to hurricanes and flooding. 
You were born in a warm April, in a warming summer. 

I strip the clothes from your chest and stand dripping 
with you in front of the fan. In the evening, 

we read picture books. “See the elephant?” I chirp. 
“See the tiger?” Knowing full well that these animals

even now are going extinct. Everything is an elegy 
for a world that you will not know. 

There are so many ways to fail you—an ocean of plastic, 
children at the border, a Police officer’s black boot. 

Is it unfair to ask you to hope? I run my hands 
over the knuckles of your spine to feel your strength. 

At the crown of your head I whisper, You are resilient
a prayer, You will survive—that by saying might come to pass. 

Climate change: For 25th year in a row, Greenland ice sheet shrinks 

January 7, 2022


summer   was                                                 heavy
melting                       on

glacier tongues

UN News

Biodiversity and ecosystem protection highlighted on Mother Earth Day

April 22, 2022


we are still

and careless
and endangered

UN News

Author’s Note

When my child was first born, I did not sleep for many months. I found myself in a new orbit with a tiny human at its center. I missed a lot of news at this time, and when I did tune in, it was to an incredible cacophony of sensationalism and despair, especially around climate change. Through the years, I had hardened myself to the knowledge of our poisoned and warming Earth. But now this Earth held my baby who was soft, open, and fragile in the ways we are all fragile in our fallible human bodies. As I emerged from the sleepless haze of newborn-land, I turned to the months of news that I had missed. The Covid-19 pandemic was still raging, world leaders had met at the G20 summit, and Navy fuel tanks on O‘ahu had leaked thousands of gallons of petroleum into our drinking water. I found myself sifting through headlines to find articles that touched my specific fears, but instead of spiraling out or shutting down, I turned to poetry. The first paragraphs of these news articles became erasures, with the headlines stepping in as titles. The act of finding poetry in a dry scientific text or clipped reportage made space for me to speak in the monolith of the news narrative that had ordered my life. Poetry holds a space for agency and interaction where we can bring our whole heartbroken, sarcastic, genuine selves. The above four poems are a sampling of a year’s worth of news erasures. I chose to counterpoint these erasures with a love poem because, since becoming a parent, my frame for all news events is love. It is a sappy, worried, and all-encompassing love that has opened me to the animal struggles and delicate ecosystems of our home.