top of page

To Be Sixteen in the Anthropocene

CAS for Database

Rucha Virmani

Faridabad, India

The Shriram Millennium School


To Be Sixteen in the Anthropocene

i have been living long enough that nothing

looks like itself. we study erik erikson

at school, and i wonder what an identity crisis

looks like. does it look like the fifty million year

old himalayas, crumbling in front of my eyes?
i want to know. you tell me about the apple tree

in your garden that knocks on the door

of your roof every morning, stretching its arms wide,

inviting you to look at the expanding universe.
the forest that we used to dance in– rogue planets,

untethered and unmoored– is a mall now. i used

to gaze at stars in the sky, but now i can only see them
in our skin cells, in the dirt of our momentary

existence. sometimes i wish the earth were
a ferris wheel, so that we could feel its spinning,
its rotation, the glaciers of time trickling in the heat.

meanwhile, the boys in my class smash a ball into

the clock. as i see shards of glass rain down on us,

i hear mountains crumble. the clock stops.

twenty years later and it will be still stuck in time,
and i find it hard to not make meaning out of this.
tell me, do these mountains look like fresh clots
to you, spilling blood in the form of mucky rivers
that carry on flowing despite it all? i clasp apricots
in my sweaty palm. maybe that’s why we invented
the globe. so that we could hold on to the brittle beauty

of this world, even when it’s fading fading fading

like our ancestral stars. i pluck my eyebrows
as if they are weeds in an eternal garden and listen
to the tv scream the world is on fire the world is on fire.

back home, under the ebbing blanket of the universe,

we write poetry about clocks that never stop ticking.

we watch the stars turn into the mountains
turn into the river turn into the ocean turn into
the humans turn into the stars. You clasp
my cold hands–a fragment of of the universe
you can hold– and tell me that we will stitch
the mountains back together. we will put out the fire.

we will breathe life into the dead forest.
as the sun speckles the horizon with apricot juice,
you look into my eyes and tell me that
that the world will be okay. i don’t know why, but
i believe you.

Note: The first line of this poem is inspired by the line “You'd been dying so long/

nothing looked like itself'' from Mary Szybist’s poem ‘On Wanting to Tell [] about Girl Eating Fish Eyes’.


What impact do we leave on our environment? And what impact do our surroundings leave on us? In a complex intertwining of both the personal and profound, Virmani leads readers on a restless, contemplative journey through the anthropocene era, reflecting on “the dirt of our momentary existence” in a quiet identity crisis. I love how this poem plays with temporality, examining what it means to be sixteen, while also considering what it means to live in a “world… on fire,” to bear witness to a yawning epoch shaped by the human hand.


Rucha Virmani is a student at Ashoka University in India. Her work has been published by Briefly Zine, The Dark Mountain Project, and Young Poets Network. She started The Climatopia Project in 2022 to use creative writing for climate activism.

bottom of page