Okjökull: Death of a glacier

In Bangalore, where the fish used to leap
in countless lakes — where I am, where
I walk, was once water — where the future
is, was once water — and it sinks, as surely
as the concrete rises from the reinforced
burden of ten million clamours. In Bangalore,
I cross places off a list, places like Okjökull
(that melted away), Brazil (where the
Amazon burns), Cua Dai (where the sea is
rising over the sand), the Barrier Reef (where
the ocean warms and coral dies), Cocos
island (where plastic washes up by the ton),
the Savannah (where the rhinos used to roam)
— my great grandfather never left his village,
never heard of Washington D.C (where the
climate does not change), he never saw a glacier
or a rainforest, never boarded an aeroplane
or a big ship, but on his bucket list there was
one place a stranger told him about — Bangalore,
glorious queen of towns, with the cool skies and
countless lakes, where the birds sang and
flowers paved the roads, with the jackfruit
groves and the laundered air, where the future
soared and the stars hung low, Bangalore
(where the climate would never change).



The plaque bears the inscription “A letter to the future” and reads: “In the next 200 years all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it,”

37 thoughts on “Okjökull: Death of a glacier

  1. What a great example of the global sung in terms of the local and vice versa – all the change out there and the change in Bangalore shaped into a perfect Mobius of one common grief. Local and global aren’t comprehensible without each other, not any more, and this so resonant of both. No climate change in Washington DC, none either in your grandfather’s Bangalore. while fire and flood, draught and vanishing cry amen. Really good work.


  2. Oh but the climate did change in DC. We had a brief period several years ago where some acknowledgement of the weather was recognized before it shifted to ice cold apathy.


  3. The writing is on the wall. We are headed full steam for a very uncertain future, and no one can claim ignorance of our own undoing in the last century of mismanagement of resources. A tragic, but needful poem.


  4. I would like to think your Grandfather was probably a more balanced and happier person than most who enjoy all the privileges you mentioned I’m sorry he did not get to see Bangalore as it was but I bet he derived a lot of joy from what was around him. He probably had a modicum of common sense as well. which is unheard of today:)


    1. Not autobiographical, thank you Cressida.. but agree with your thoughts – the simpler life was sustainable in a way. Everything we’ve destroyed in the name of progress and growth and greed is coming back to claim its price now. It’s scary.


  5. water will find its path, whether we build dams and culverts, dikes or berms. perhaps a nuclear winter will cause ice to re-form. I wonder if that’s the path charted by those deniers of climate change. ~


  6. How very sad. I weep not only for the Amazon, the Reef etc., but also for your beautiful town – which I have never seen, and which no-one now can see as it was. The plaque is heart-rending too. (Will there be anyone left to read it?)


  7. The problem is not global warming it is the mindless profiteers who are quite blind to the damage they are doing and governments who ignore the warning signs. I am very concerned for my children and grandchildren.


    1. Yes, one is indeed concerned about the burden being shifted to the next generation. It is amazing how much inaction we see considering our future is literally burning down.


  8. That would be glory, indeed, if Bangalore remained the gem of the grandfather’s dreams. A poem so marvelous in its contrasts, that I had to read it twice to let the grief sink in.


    1. Thanks so much, Susan… human action is wreaking destruction upon this planet… yet the only voice being heard seems to be that of a teenage girl braving the odds. Maybe the kids can redeem us and fix all that my generation got wrong for climate and ecology.


  9. This poem is so beautifully sad. It’s melancholy mood matches my grief for all that will never be the same. My only comfort – everything changes.
    As always, I admire your writing. It awakens my thoughts, or perhaps gives expression to what I’m feeling, fearing.


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