Just Joan - Joan Huguenard

From a Marshall Islander: tell them…

The Marshall Islands is an island country located in the northern Pacific Ocean. Geographically, the country is part of the larger island group of Micronesia, with the population of around 68,000 people spread out over 34 low-lying coral atolls, comprising 1,156 individual islands and islets. The islands share maritime boundaries with the Federated States of Micronesia to the west, Wake Island to the north, Kiribati to the south-east, and Nauru to the south. The most populous atoll is Majuro, which also acts as the capital.

Micronesian colonists gradually settled the Marshall Islands during the 2nd millennium BC, with inter-island navigation made possible using traditional stick charts. Islands in the archipelago were first explored by Europeans in the 1520s. Other expeditions by Spanish and English ships followed, with the islands’ current name stemming from British explorer John Marshall. Recognized as part of the Spanish East Indies in 1874, the islands were sold to Germany in 1884, thus beginning a series of ownership by different countries until World War II, when the islands were conquered by the United States.

From 1946 to 1958, as the site of the Pacific Proving Grounds, the U.S. tested 67 nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands,[14] including the largest nuclear test the U.S. ever conducted, Castle Bravo. Population of the Marshall Islands suffered tremendously during WWII, with more than 5,000 dying from lack of food and various injuries. 

In 1956, the Atomic Energy Commission regarded the Marshall Islands as “by far the most contaminated place in the world” (This information was gleaned from Wikipedia.)

Now, dear readers, I have two important requests before you read further:

Locate the Marshall Islands on a globe or a map so you have a sense of just where these islands are located in the vast pacific ocean.

Then, picture yourself there in that island tropical paradise as you read this profound poetry read by Marshall Islander, Kathy Dedz at a Berkeley gathering.

Or watch the author read her own creation at www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQFTFMu2F5U
tell them By Kathy/Dedz jkijiner.wordpress.com/author/jkijiner

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
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.

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