Citizen Action Monitor

“tell them what it’s like to see the entire ocean level with the land”

“tell them we are afraid … we are nothing without our islands”

No 1526 Posted by fw, December 2, 2015

“I am definitely a supporter of the divestment movement. I teach at The College of the Marshall Islands. The first college in the Micronesia to divest. So, even though we are a small college, even though we don’t even have as much funds as some of these bigger institutions, we took the step to divest. And the reason was, because it depends on our survival. We will do everything we can to save our islands. And so, yeah. So I’ll be sharing a poem about the beauty of our islands and what we want the world to know, which is that we shouldn’t have to leave and we shouldn’t have to move from our islands because of the flooding. So this is a poem I wrote, and it’s called ‘Tell Them.’”Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner

Below is an embedded 4:00-minute video of Kathy reading her powerful poem. The words to the poem appear after the video. Thanks to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now for this.

The Global Call for Climate Action (GCCA), an organization that uses art to inspire social change, brought a delegation of poets from around the world to Paris to highlight the impacts of climate change and inspire climate action. Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, a poet and climate activist from the Marshall Islands, led the group. She shared a poem at a protest at COP21 called “Tell Them,” calling for fossil fuel divestment.

Don’t miss the SEE ALSO link to Kathy’s love poem for her baby daughter, which she read at last year’s UN Climate Summit: it’s at the end of this post.

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner

**********

Marshall Islands Poet to the UN Climate Summit: “Tell Them We Are Nothing Without Our Islands” by Democracy Now, December 02, 2015

I am definitely a supporter of the divestment movement. I teach at The College of the Marshall Islands. The first college in the Micronesia to divest. So, even though we are a small college, even though we don’t even have as much funds as some of these bigger institutions, we took the step to divest. And the reason was, because it depends on our survival. We will do everything we can to save our islands. And so, yeah. So I’ll be sharing a poem about the beauty of our islands and what we want the world to know, which is that we shouldn’t have to leave and we shouldn’t have to move from our islands because of the flooding. So this is a poem I wrote, and it’s called “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 descendants
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 Kool-Aid 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.

Thank you. And this is why I support the divestment campaign to support our islands so we don’t have to leave from our islands. So that we can do whatever we can to save our islands. Thank you.

SEE ALSO

Dear Matafele Peinem – A mother reads a love poem for her baby daughter at the UN Climate Summit posted December 26, 2014. – “Dear Matafele Peinem’ made us all cry—everyone from the toughest world leader to the youngest climate activist”

FAIR USE NOTICE – For details click here

%d bloggers like this: