Poet Elizabeth Cruz is part of Escritores de Utah. She writes for many different causes and has shared her poetry in multiple countries. (Courtesy Elizabeth Cruz)

Poetry is magic. That’s what poet Elizabeth Cruz says — she firmly believes her writing can help save the drying Great Salt Lake.

“Mother Earth cries. Mother Earth suffers. Sometimes it is because of the hand of men. Poetry has the ability to have you dream a new world,” she said in Spanish, as her friend Nora García Christfield translated.

Cruz is from Veracruz, Mexico and first started to write at a very young age. Her father owned a shoe shop, and she would write on the bottom of shoes. She’s a small woman with short, dark curly hair and purple glasses. Her hand gestures are as grand as her passion for poetry and saving Utah’s iconic inland sea.

“Our mountains, our lakes are what gives us life. We need to respect them. We need to care for them, and we need to protect them,” Cruz said. “We have contaminated and we have not taken care of Mother Earth.”

“We need to be happy, we need to be thankful. And how are we thankful? Taking care of this beautiful land.”

Cruz said she first went to the Great Salt Lake a long time ago. “Its beauty enchanted me and I've seen how it gives life. The lake is full of history. I close my eyes and I see the early pioneers. And now with sadness I see what is not.”

Her poem about the lake juxtaposes what was with what is, and what will be. Here it is in the original Spanish, followed by an English translation.

Salvemos el lago salado.

Aquel lago impresionante el orgullo del estado

se empezó a evaporar, se evapora su historia

se evapora su grandeza, su belleza y mineral

sensaciones de tristeza, nos invade al mirar

de aquel lago tan inmenso, solo un charco quedará.

Las montañas son testigos, de aquel fulgor celestial

sus primeros habitantes, se esmeran por cuidarlo

y por no contaminarlo, generaciones pasaron

y poco lo apreciaron, aquella bella riqueza

con la ayuda del humano, poco a poco lo secamos.

La sal se encuentra esparcida

dejando sus huellas por doquier.

¿Por qué se secó el lago?

no lo supimos cuidar

sus aguas no valoramos, ni tampoco su cristal

porque somos solo expertos

para destruir, para asesinar

destruimos nidos de aves, que tienen que emigrar.

Destruimos la naturaleza, que el oxígeno nos da

destruimos la madre tierra, que es nuestro bello hogar

la nueva generación, se tendrá que imaginar

que un día existió un lago, de belleza Celestial.

Saving the Lake

That impressive lake, the pride of the state

it began to evaporate, the history of the lake evaporates

the greatness of the leak evaporates, its beauty and minerals

feelings of sadness overcome us as we gaze

that immense lake, only a puddle remains.

The mountain bears witness of the celestial glow

the original habitants took pains to care for it

and not contaminate it, generations passed

and they didn't appreciate it, that beautiful richness

with the help of human hands, little by little, was left to dry.

The salt is now scattered

leaving its footprints everywhere.

Why did the lake dry up?

we didn't know how to care for it

its waters we didn't value, nor its crystals

because we're only experts

to destroy, to assassinate

we destroy nests of birds, which have to emigrate

we destroy nature, which gives us oxygen

we destroy Mother Earth, which is our beautiful home

the new generation will have to imagine

that once there was a lake of celestial glow.

Cruz especially hopes she can raise awareness in the younger and upcoming generations.

“My poetry will make a difference. If I can touch one heart, then the new generation would choose differently. If I can touch two hearts. Then we will begin to change more,” she said. “This will transform the world.”

Cruz seizes any opportunity she can to share her poetry. Recently, she traveled five hours to an event just to read her two-minute lake poem. “I couldn't give up. I knew I needed to come. It was important for me to get there – to save the lakes and to save this Earth.”

“I want you to know that I never give up. I have strong legs. I have a lot of patience to never give up.”

Cruz believes poetry is a spark for change.

“As long as we have that fire in our heart, then we will have passion and the zest for life. But if that fire extinguishes, then we will enter a world of darkness and depression.”

Elizabeth Cruz is part of Escritores de Utah. She writes for many different causes and has shared her poetry in multiple countries. Her poem “Salvemos el lago salado” appears in the Great Salt Lake Anthology, which was produced by the Great Salt Lake Collaborative and the Salt Lake Community College Community Writing Center.

Ciara is a native of Utah and KUER's Morning Edition host.

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