I grew up here too and when we lived there in the 1990s, we were already having problems growing food due to the rising oceans. I can only imagine what it is like there now.


Poet, writer, and spoken word artist. Graduated from Mills College in 2010, once a part of Youthspeaks Hawaii, she’s also taught as a Student Teacher Poet (STP) with Poetry for the People, been a part of the artist collective formally known as The Bombshelter Crew as well as the queer Pacific Islander artist collective known as One Love Oceania (OLO), and is also a Voices of Our Nations (VONA) alum. Background includes solo theater: her piece also entitled “Iep Jaltok” has been featured at various solo performance theater venues including: City Solo, Third Root Art Collective’s “For Colored Girls Only” show, and CounterPulse’s “Words First.” She has also worked at the College of the Marshall Islands as a Communications Officer, and represented the Marshall Islands at the international poetry festival Poetry Parnassus in London. She is now currently pursuing her Master’s in Pacific Island Studies, with her research focusing on Marshallese storytelling.



Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner Marshallese poet Picture


Dear Matefele Peinam by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner


dear matafele peinam,


you are a seven month old sunrise of gummy smiles

you are bald as an egg and bald as the buddha

you are thunder thighs and lightning shrieks so excited for bananas, hugs and

our morning walks past the lagoon


dear matafele peinam,


i want to tell you about that lagoon that lucid, sleepy lagoon lounging against the sunrise

some men say that one day that lagoon will devour you


they say it will gnaw at the shoreline

chew at the roots of your breadfruit trees

gulp down rows of your seawalls

and crunch your island’s shattered bones


they say you, your daughter

and your granddaughter, too

will wander rootless

with only a passport to call home


dear matafele peinam,


don’t cry


mommy promises you


no one

will come and devour you


no greedy whale of a company

sharking through political seas

no backwater bullying of businesses with broken morals no blindfolded

bureaucracies gonna push

this mother ocean over

the edge


no one’s drowning, baby

no one’s moving

no one’s losing

their homeland

no one’s gonna become

a climate change refugee


or should i say

no one else


to the carteret islanders of papua new guinea

and to the taro islanders of fiji

i take this moment

to apologize to you

we are drawing the line here


because baby we are going to fight

your mommy daddy

bubu jimma your country and president too

we will all fight


and even though there are those

hidden behind platinum titles

who like to pretend

that we don’t exist

that the marshall islands




and typhoon haiyan in the philippines

and floods of pakistan, algeria, and colombia

and all the hurricanes, earthquakes, and tidalwaves

didn’t exist



there are those

who see us


hands reaching out

fists raising up

banners unfurling

megaphones booming

and we are

canoes blocking coal ships

we are

the radiance of solar villages

we are

the rich clean soil of the farmer’s past

we are

petitions blooming from teenage fingertips

we are

families biking, recycling, reusing,

engineers dreaming, designing, building,

artists painting, dancing, writing

we are spreading the word


and there are thousands out on the street

marching with signs

hand in hand

chanting for change NOW


they’re marching for you, baby

they’re marching for us


because we deserve to do more than just


we deserve

to thrive


dear matafele peinam,

you are eyes heavy

with drowsy weight

so just close those eyes, baby

and sleep in peace


because we won’t let you down


you’ll see





Marshall Islands



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