Photo of blackened dead tree sticking out of water on a stormy dayWhen the Soviets started draining their inland sea
to grow cotton in the desert,
a Kremlin engineer said it is obvious to everyone
that the evaporation of the Aral Sea is inevitable.
It won’t surprise you that it wasn’t, that it had
been there for millennia, and that it’s not coming back
until long after we are all dead.
It will not surprise you to hear that Uzbekistan
doesn’t export much cotton anymore.

And here in California, wrapped like a gift by the
Sonoran Desert, lie 125 golf courses, their sprinklers
on timers, just a few miles from the Salton Sea
with its toxic red algae, pesticide lined depths,
choking stench from what looks like sand
at a distance, but is really the ground
shells and bones of fish and barnacles killed
by the sea’s rising salt.

The state’s wetlands paved over,
migrations turn to the sea,
for thousands of birds this is the last stop
before clearing the border wall and
keeping south to Baja. The rains bring more salt
from the hills, a lone species of tilapia the only fish
hardy enough to survive. Soon,
there will be nothing here, not even for the birds,
unless the sea stops drying up,
gets a huge donation of clean, fresh water.

Palm Springs stays humid, the date farms are sluiced,
you understand what is meant by inevitable.

By Alec Osthoff


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