Dear Matafele Peinem – MOTHER’S POEM TO SIX-MONTH-OLD DAUGHTER

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

tuvalu

kiribati

maldives

and typhoon haiyan in the philippines

and floods of pakistan, algeria, and colombia

and all the hurricanes, earthquakes, and tidalwaves

didn’t exist

 

still

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

survive

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

 

 

MOTHER’S POEM TO SIX-MONTH-OLD DAUGHTER TRIGGERS STANDING OVATION

 

Marshall Islands

 

 

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