IEP JELTOK

a basket of poetry and writing from Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner

poem: Tell Them

7 Comments

Tell Them

I prepared the package

for my friends in the states

the dangling earrings woven

into half moons black pearls glinting

like an eye in a storm of tight spirals

the baskets

sturdy, also woven

brown cowry shells shiny

intricate mandalas

shaped by calloused fingers

Inside the basket

a message:

 

Wear these earrings

to parties

to your classes and meetings

to the grocery store, the corner store

and while riding the bus

Store jewelry, incense, copper coins

and curling letters like this one

in this basket

and when others ask you

where you got this

you tell them

 

they’re from the Marshall Islands

 

show them where it is on a map

tell them we are a proud people

toasted dark brown as the carved ribs

of a tree stump

tell them we are descendents

of the finest navigators in the world

tell them our islands were dropped

from a basket

carried by a giant

tell them we are the hollow hulls

of canoes as fast as the wind

slicing through the pacific sea

 we are wood shavings

and drying pandanus leaves

and sticky bwiros at kemems

tell them we are sweet harmonies

of grandmothers mothers aunties and sisters

songs late into night

tell them we are whispered prayers

the breath of God

a crown of fushia flowers encircling

aunty mary’s white sea foam hair

tell them we are styrofoam cups of  koolaid red

waiting patiently for the ilomij

tell them we are papaya golden sunsets bleeding

into a glittering open sea

 we are skies uncluttered

majestic in their sweeping landscape

we are the ocean

terrifying and regal in its power

tell them we are dusty rubber slippers

swiped

from concrete doorsteps

we are the ripped seams

and the broken door handles of taxis

 we are sweaty hands shaking another sweaty hand in heat

tell them

we are days

and nights hotter

than anything you can imagine

tell them we are little girls with braids

cartwheeling beneath the rain

 we are shards of broken beer bottles

burrowed beneath fine white sand

we are children flinging

like rubber bands

across a road clogged with chugging cars

tell them

we only have one road

 

and after all this

tell them about the water

how we have seen it rising

flooding across our cemeteries

gushing over the sea walls

and crashing against our homes

tell them what it’s like

to see the entire ocean__level___with the land

tell them

we are afraid

tell them we don’t know

of the politics

or the science

but tell them we see

what is in our own backyard

tell them that some of us

are old fishermen who believe that God

made us a promise

some of us

are more skeptical of God

but most importantly tell them

we don’t want to leave

we’ve never wanted to leave

and that we

are nothing without our islands.

About these ads

Author: Kathy/Dede

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.

7 thoughts on “poem: Tell Them

  1. Wow, u blow my mind, open my eyes, and make me teary eyed with this poem. Your are one of many young bright Marshallese with bigger dreams for her country, I am right? ekwe Keep up the good work and God Bless

  2. really nice.. i got to feel your words.. keep it up

  3. thank you all for your support! :)

  4. Helo, Kathy – This is a beautiful and hugely moving poem. We would like to publish an excerpt translated into Welsh in Y Papur Gwyrdd, an ecological magazine my wife and I publish here in Wales – http://www.ypapurgwyrdd.com. We saw ‘Tell Them’ on the 350.org website. Thank you and best wishes, Hywel

  5. Powerful and empowering!!

  6. My doing this poem for school project. I like this! so true. P.S. I”m Marshallese.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 60 other followers