a poem for Chamorus

A Love Letter to the Chamoru People in the Twenty-first Century




I will begin this in the middle, since all of my letters have always been to you, even if you haven’t realized it. Go back and look. You’ll see. All of my imaginings, my histories, my deaths and rebirths, my love and heartbreak. All of my words. My windblown hair, my lemon-sticky wrists. My fishbones, slings, feathers and offerings. My twig fires and heaped mounds of husks. My paint-dipped elbows and muddy feet. The bowers I weave into a home-scented bowl that might call you to me. The way I can sometimes chant down the sea and coax a wave to carry my heart to you. The salt on my thighs, the clutch of shells I carry in my deepest pockets. They are always for you. Addressed to you. So you’ll understand, I hope, if I pick up where we last left off, which is always at horizon.


Who but a horizon so keenly feels how we are kept at each other’s distance?


Because much more than wind carries so many of us away from our islands. Because we are made to consider our oceans as walls. Because we fumble the jar lid of tongues we’ve been made to bury. Because our sails have been burned. Because our grandmothers have been raped and worse. Because the bones of our beloved are being paved over and over with layers of poison and dollars that bear faces not our own.


Because the news tells us who we are not. Because our families are separated. Because distance means we cannot always conjure the scent of our aunty’s cheek. Because we are visited by our ancestors in dreams. Because we are visited by our ancestors in waking life. Because our nieces and nephews struggle to remember the last time we visited.


Because two more of our sons and daughters have enlisted. Because their enlistment might return them home whole or in pieces or not at all. Because diabetes has taken another pair of our eyes. Because we cannot tread on pieces of our own land without clearance. Because we keep words like clearance and deployment and strategic and stationed in the bowl with our keys by the front door. Because we can count to a thousand in Spanish. Because we can count to the apocalypse in English.


Because our crow song has vanished. Because our trees are blighted. Because our reefs are targets. Because we are always in the path of military maneuvers. Because I must write this to you in English.


Because we are trending. Because our faces are lit up with the glow of emojis each shedding a single tear . Because our petitions do not go viral. Because Cara only half jokes about investing in bunker supplies. Because Michael is being fitted with a lapel mic for the twentieth time today. Because Clarissa splits herself open to talk story about Litekyan. Because Desiree is trying to ignore the planes flying overhead. Because Dåkot-ta is not even going to talk about anything but peace. Because Ned wants us to share with the world. Because Arielle is still trying to sell her atulai. Because Craig debates the value of visibility. Because our non-Chamoru friends text us to say what a shame but can they also get that kelaguin recipe?


Because we are shouting into the Pacific. Because our voices are choked in the fumes of B-1 bombers.




Because I could not sleep.


Because I could not eat.


Because I do not want to get my mind off things, I am writing to you.


I close my eyes against the morning sun in my garden–where I reach out to you across space and time–and I hear you. I hear you laughing and loving and crying. In despair and resistance. In anguish and abhorrence. What’s more, I feel you. The salt in our blood carries droplets of the ocean. No matter where we are, inside us is a liquid web connecting our beating hearts.


I am quiet so I can perceive your tugs, the delicate density of your tangles.


And I want you to know that I am always scared, but I am always hopeful. Because I can feel you, I can feel our collective fear. We are proud, so we sometimes deny fear, keep it hidden like a lozenge under the tongue. We are resilient, so we know that it will dissolve. And when it does, we will still be here, tending our plants, casting our nets, shaping our canoes, writing our bodies into existence.


I am writing to you, mañe’lu, aunties, uncles, nenis, cousins, kin and all our saina.


I am writing to tell you that I see you. I hear you. I feel you. I love you. You matter.


I hope this letter finds you.


Until we can gaze together upon a horizon full of sails,