Podcast Episode 25: when the coral copies our fashion advice

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Hi, it’s me again, Reckoning publisher Michael J. DeLuca, reporting from droughted, heatwave-beset northeastern North America. Is it brutally hot and dry where you are? Is your representative democracy hamstrung by corruption?

While you’re waiting around for the revolution, cool off with me for a minute or two and listen to Ashley Bao read her effervescent, beachy-apocalyptic poem, “when the coral copies our fashion advice”. This is the second of five podcast episodes featuring our Utopia Award nominees from Reckoning 5.

The Utopia Awards, organized by Android Press as part of CliFiCon22, will be up for public vote between August 1 – 21, and winners will be announced at the conference in October. We really hope you’ll listen and be inspired to vote. I’ll include links to the voting pages here once they’re live.

Also, in case you missed it: we’re having a fundraiser! We’d love to pay everyone better and give more folks a chance to feel invested in this undertaking while making more cool stuff and amplifying more radical, revolutionary, restorative ideas. There will be rewards! Take this opportunity to sport some antifascist, pro-environmental justice Reckoning bling. Maybe win a personal critique of your writing from one of our editors. Or encourage our staff to generate some bespoke educational content on how to make the world a more livable place from right in your own backyard or local biosphere preserve. Come on over to reckoning.press/support-us to learn more.

[Bio below.]

when the coral copies our fashion advice by Ashley Bao

when the coral copies our fashion advice

bleach blonde was the look of the summer: 

colorless skeleton of polyps and aging fish spines.

rocks smoothly slate gray as salt water

grinds it down; it had no algal coat to protect and

nourish, no obsidian shelled mussels hanging off

the edges, beating themselves to the rhythm of the tide.


the moon rises and so the tide flows, warming waves

crashed, blue hypoxic seafoam gurgled a last 

lament. when the seagull cried out for the last time,

it took the flock with it. once upon a time,

if you cupped blue with spread out fingers, either sky

or sea, you could observe life teeming in between your knuckles.


you can’t help but paint old histories in pink watercolors:

take the brush, cover the blemishes, brighten the hues,

you don’t know what parts are real and which parts you wish were.


a truth: bleach blonde did not stay after summer. girls found their hair

was too crackly, brittle from constant treatment. we started

thinking maroon silk was better than sulphureous wires stuck

to scalps with elmer’s glue. life breeds life, their hair was already dead

but the reef still clung like a damsel in distress. if it was rapunzel,

it would’ve let down its hair for anyone, if only they’d climb the tower.


you replant a polyp, a seedling you nurtured to life, it is its

time to fledge. you lace your fingers together and

cautiously peer into the snowglobe you have shaken back to life:


tangs so bright they turn chartreuse

at noon, cinnabar anemones with squirming tentacles,

emerald seagrass plush to the touch. tilt your head, 

and see the terns circling, wide white wings casting shade

as a warning. they are the most polite predators


you think you have ever seen; when smog clogged 

city streets and winter air turned tepid, we sent

no heads-up: perhaps this might be your last century;

best prepare your trembling lungs, your hummingbird hearts, bleached

platinum is our new gold. painting the color back into

coral’s white skeleton is our apology. we try so the message we 

never sent will not come