Follow flaming footsteps across a fading sky.
Follow them in silence in the shadow of the sun—
follow them into a world where day has just begun.
Dream upon the moonlit spires and towers of your time
where flowers furl to emptiness and water splits to chyme.
Wait upon the breaking shore and stake your wishes there.
Caress the wind with fingertips, salt crystals in your hair.
Remember this, the bright abyss, the growing of the green.
Remember her, the lightning blur, the glowing of the screen.
Remember them at daylight’s end, when all the world is blind.
Curled up within your tower as you leave the world behind.
Soar up into the endless night, soar up into the black
where memories are broken light, and walls shine white and clean
and sterilized laboratories hoard the only green
and shooting stars on harnesses deliver you away.
You lie awake at night, some nights, and dream you had looked back.
Your memories are faded, and your hair is long and gray.
You watch eternal emptiness, the comet’s silver track.
Your blessings all were wasted. The gifts you had are gone.
You trace the distant galaxies and slowly fall to bone—
all swallowed by your memories, defeated by the dawn.
Recall the planet you destroyed. Remember Earth, your home.
Madison Barendse is 17 years old and attends Southeast High School. Her poem “Exodus” won first place in the 2022 Manatee Libraries and 805 Teen Poetry Contest.