“This Changes Everything” (Earth Day Poem)

My wife and I take our 2-year old daughter to the first Hawaiʻi screening of Naomi Klein’s documentary.

The line for the documentary is long, almost as long as the Hawaiʻi endangered species list.

Unlike the endangered species list, there aren’t many natives in this line.

Of all the white people here, I’d estimate that 99% of them want to save the earth, while the other 1% are critical of salvation discourse.

The theatre feels small and uncomfortably full, like an overbooked ark.

The white people around us start coughing, which triggers intergenerational trauma and inherited flight instincts in my body.

Our daughter starts to become restless, too, so my wife breastfeeds her until she falls asleep.

I, too, have always kind of hated films about climate change.

Not because they feature cliche polar bears, but because they’re all made by white people.

In the climate movement, indigenous peoples are the new polar bears.

We sport a vulnerable-yet-charismatic-species-vibe, an endangered-yet-resilient-chic, a survive-and-thrive-swagger.

Plus, we cry “native tears,” which are the saddest kind of tears.

Do you remember “The Crying Indian” PSA from the Keep America Beautiful campaign, which launched on Earth Day in 1971?

The television ad featured a non-native actor, “Iron Eyes Cody,” playing a Native American who rows his canoe down a littered river and past smoking factories, until he reaches a dirty beach that leads to a busy highway.

A voice says, “Some people have a deep abiding respect for the natural beauty that was once this country. And some people don’t. People start pollution, people can stop it.”

The commercial ends with a close-up on his fake “native tears.”

When the natives in “This Changes Everything” cry, the white people in the theatre cry “white tears” extra-loudly.

I hate it when white people cry extra-loudly, as if they’ve never seen native people cry in real life.

When the documentary shows polluted native lands, the white people gasp extra-loudly.

I hate it when white people gasp extra-loudly.

“Stop gasping so loudly!” I shout in my head. “Everything already changed for native peoples centuries ago!”

The film ends with the emotional labor of “native hope.”

We sneak out of the theatre during the post-documentary discussion, when the first white person exclaims extra-loudly “WE MUST SAVE THE PLANET!!!!!”

I whisper to my wife: “The Geological Society should refer to this era of human destruction as the Wypipocene.”

She jokes that we should make a documentary about how climate change is finally making white people uncomfortable.

Our documentary will be titled: “Melting Glaciers, White Tears.”

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“Interwoven”

“Interwoven”
 
1
 
I come from an island
and you come from a continent,
yet we are both made of stories
that teach us to remember
our origins and genealogies,
to care for the land and waters,
and to respect the interconnected
sacredness of all things.
 
2
 
I come from an island
and you come from a continent,
yet we both know invasion.
Magellan breached our reef
thirty years after Columbus raided
your shore. We were baptized
in disease, violence, and genocide.
We both carry the deep grief
of survival.
 
3
 
I come from an island
and you come from a continent,
yet we both know the walls
of boarding schools. We were punished
for breathing our customs and
speaking our language. We learned
the Western curriculum
of fear and silence.
 
4
 
I come from an island
and you come from a continent,
yet we both know desecration.
We witnessed minerals, trees, wildlife,
and food crops extracted for profit.
We mourn lands stolen and re-named,
waters diverted and dammed.
We inherit the intergenerational
loss of removal.
 
5
 
I come from an island
and migrated to your continent.
Hundreds of thousands of us
have settled in your territories
for military service, education,
health care, and jobs.
We were so busy searching
for better lives, we didn’t ask
your permission. We didn’t even
recognize how our American dream
was your American nightmare.
 
6
 
Native American cousins, I see you now
across this vast, scarred continent,
reviving your languages and cultures,
restoring native schools and tribal governments,
planting heritage seeds and decolonizing your diets,
blockading pipelines and protesting mining,
fighting for renewable energy
and a sustainable future.
 
Native cousins, I see you now
dancing, chanting, drumming,
rapping, writing, researching,
publishing, digitizing, animating,
filming, video gaming, and
revitalizing your ancestral stories.
I hear and honor your voices.
 
7
 
I come from an island
and you come from a continent,
yet let us gather, today, and
share our stories of hurt,
our stories of healing.
I hope, seven generations from now,
our descendants will continue
interweaving our struggles.
I hope the stories we share today
and in the future will carry us
towards sovereign horizons.

“(The Birth of Guam)” (Poem)

“(the birth of Guam)”

Guam was born on March 6, 1521, when Ferdinand Magellan arrived in the womb of Humåtak Bay and delivered [us] into the calloused hands of modernity. “Guam is Where Western Imperialism in the Pacifc Begins!” St. Helena Augusta, tayuyute [ham] : pray for [us]. The annual reenactment of “Discovery Day” is a must see for all tourists: Chamorros-dressed-as-our- ancestors welcome Chamorros-dressed-as-the-galleon-crew. After the bloody performance, enjoy local food, walking tours, live reggae bands, and fireworks! Guam was adopted on December 10, 1898, when the Treaty of Paris was signed, and Spain ceded [us] to the United States. “Guam is Where America’s Western Frontier Begins!” Guam was declared an “unincorporated territory” on May 27, 1901, when the Supreme Court Insular Cases decided that the U.S. constitution does not follow its flag. “Guam is Where America’s Logic of Territorial Incorporation Ends!” Guam was kidnapped on December 8, 1941, when Japan bombed, invaded, and occupied [us]. “Guam is Where the Greater East Asia Co- Prosperity Sphere Begins!” On July 21, 1944, the U.S. armed forces returned and defeated the Japanese military. Guam was naturalized on August 1, 1950, when the Organic Act bestowed U.S. citizenship upon [us]. “Guam is Where America’s Passports Begin!” Guam was pimped out on May 1, 1967, when Pan American World Airways arrived with the first 109 Japanese tourists. The Guam Visitors Bureau birthed a new marketing slogan: “Guam is Where America’s Day Begins!” Since Guam is located 2,000 miles west of the international dateline, [we] instagram the sunrise before anyone in the fifty states. For the past 30 years, a straw poll on Guam has accurately predicted U.S. presidential elections, even though our votes don’t actually count in the electoral college. “Guam is Where America’s Voting Rights End!” This ironic streak ended in 2016, when Hillary Clinton received 70% of the ballots cast on Guam, yet Donald Trump still won #notmycolonizerinchief. St. Thomas More, tayuyute [ham]. After the election, [we] begin the countdown to Super Bowl Monday, a sacred day when all Chamorros leave work and school in procession to the altar of the television. St. Sebastian, tayuyute [ham]. I attended George Washington High School on Guam, but I often skipped “English” class because the haole teacher made [us] memorize boring, canonical verse. “Guam is Where America’s Poetry Begins!” Sorry not sorry if I threw everyone’s rhyme and meter off.

“Family Trees” (Poem)

Family Trees

for the 2016 Guam Soil and Water Conservation Districts’ Educator Symposium

1

Before we enter the jungle, my dad

asks permission of the spirits who dwell

within. He walks slowly, with care,

to teach me, like his father taught him,

how to show respect. Then he stops

and closes his eyes to teach me

how to listen. Ekungok, as the winds

exhale and billow the canopy, tremble

the understory, and conduct the wild

orchestra of all breathing things.

2

“Niyok, Lemmai, Ifit, Yoga’, Nunu,” he chants

in a tone of reverence, calling forth the names

of each tree, each elder, who has provided us

with food and medicine, clothes and tools,

canoes and shelter. Like us, they grew in dark

wombs, sprouted from seeds, were nourished

by the light. Like us, they survived the storms

of conquest. Like us, roots anchor them to this

island, giving breath, giving strength to reach

towards the Pacific sky and blossom.

3

“When you take,” my dad says, “Take with

gratitude, and never more than what you need.”

He teaches me the phrase, “eminent domain,”

which means “theft,” means “to turn a place

of abundance into a base of destruction.”

The military uprooted trees with bulldozers,

paved the fertile earth with concrete, and planted

toxic chemicals and ordnances in the ground.

Barbed wire fences spread like invasive vines,

whose only fruit are the cancerous tumors

that bloom on every branch of our family tree.

4

Today, the military invites us to collect

plants and trees within areas of Litekyan

slated to be cleared for impending

construction. Fill out the appropriate forms

and wait 14 business days for a background

and security check. If we receive their

permission, they’ll escort us to the site

so we can mark and claim what we want

delivered to us after removal. They say

this is a benevolent gesture, but why

does it feel like a cruel reaping?

5

One tree my dad never showed me is

the endangered hayun lågu, the last

of which is struggling to survive in Litekyan

its only home. Today, the military plans to clear

the surrounding area for a live firing range,

making the tree even more vulnerable

to violent winds, invasive pests, and stray

bullets. Don’t worry, they say. We’ll build

a fence around the tree. They say this is an act

of mitigation, but why does it feel like

the disturbed edge of extinction?

6

Ekungok, ancient whispers rouse the jungle!

Listen, oceanic waves stir against the rocks!

Ekungok, i taotaoʻmona call us to rise!

Listen, i tronkon Yoga’ calls us to stand tall!

Ekungok, i tronkon Lemmai calls us to spread our arms wide!

Listen, i tronkon Nunu calls us to link our hands!

Ekungok, i tronkon Ifit calls us to be firm!

Listen, i tronkon Niyok calls us to never break!

Ekungok, i halom tano’ calls us to surround

i hayun  lågu and chant: “We are the seeds

of the last fire tree! We are the seeds of the last

fire tree! We are the seeds of the last fire tree!

Ahe’! No! We do not give you permission!”

“Family Trees” (Poem)

Family Trees

for the 2016 Guam Soil and Water Conservation Districts’ Educator Symposium

1

Before we enter the jungle, my dad

asks permission of the spirits who dwell

within. He walks slowly, with care,

to teach me, like his father taught him,

how to show respect. Then he stops

and closes his eyes to teach me

how to listen. Ekungok, as the winds

exhale and billow the canopy, tremble

the understory, and conduct the wild

orchestra of all breathing things.

2

“Niyok, Lemmai, Ifit, Yoga’, Nunu,” he chants

in a tone of reverence, calling forth the names

of each tree, each elder, who has provided us

with food and medicine, clothes and tools,

canoes and shelter. Like us, they grew in dark

wombs, sprouted from seeds, were nourished

by the light. Like us, they survived the storms

of conquest. Like us, roots anchor them to this

island, giving breath, giving strength to reach

towards the Pacific sky and blossom.

3

“When you take,” my dad says, “Take with

gratitude, and never more than what you need.”

He teaches me the phrase, “eminent domain,”

which means “theft,” means “to turn a place

of abundance into a base of destruction.”

The military uprooted trees with bulldozers,

paved the fertile earth with concrete, and planted

toxic chemicals and ordnances in the ground.

Barbed wire fences spread like invasive vines,

whose only fruit are the cancerous tumors

that bloom on every branch of our family tree.

4

Today, the military invites us to collect

plants and trees within areas of Litekyan

slated to be cleared for impending

construction. Fill out the appropriate forms

and wait 14 business days for a background

and security check. If we receive their

permission, they’ll escort us to the site

so we can mark and claim what we want

delivered to us after removal. They say

this is a benevolent gesture, but why

does it feel like a cruel reaping?

5

One tree my dad never showed me is

the endangered hayun lågu, the last

of which is struggling to survive in Litekyan

its only home. Today, the military plans to clear

the surrounding area for a live firing range,

making the tree even more vulnerable

to violent winds, invasive pests, and stray

bullets. Don’t worry, they say. We’ll build

a fence around the tree. They say this is an act

of mitigation, but why does it feel like

the disturbed edge of extinction?

6

Ekungok, ancient whispers rouse the jungle!

Listen, oceanic waves stir against the rocks!

Ekungok, i taotaoʻmona call us to rise!

Listen, i tronkon Yoga’ calls us to stand tall!

Ekungok, i tronkon Lemmai calls us to spread our arms wide!

Listen, i tronkon Nunu calls us to link our hands!

Ekungok, i tronkon Ifit calls us to be firm!

Listen, i tronkon Niyok calls us to never break!

Ekungok, i halom tano’ calls us to surround

i hayun  lågu and chant: “We are the seeds

of the last fire tree! We are the seeds of the last

fire tree! We are the seeds of the last fire tree!

Ahe’! No! We do not give you permission!”

“Family Trees” (Poem)

Family Trees

for the 2016 Guam Soil and Water Conservation Districts’ Educator Symposium

1

Before we enter the jungle, my dad

asks permission of the spirits who dwell

within. He walks slowly, with care,

to teach me, like his father taught him,

how to show respect. Then he stops

and closes his eyes to teach me

how to listen. Ekungok, as the winds

exhale and billow the canopy, tremble

the understory, and conduct the wild

orchestra of all breathing things.

2

“Niyok, Lemmai, Ifit, Yoga’, Nunu,” he chants

in a tone of reverence, calling forth the names

of each tree, each elder, who has provided us

with food and medicine, clothes and tools,

canoes and shelter. Like us, they grew in dark

wombs, sprouted from seeds, were nourished

by the light. Like us, they survived the storms

of conquest. Like us, roots anchor them to this

island, giving breath, giving strength to reach

towards the Pacific sky and blossom.

3

“When you take,” my dad says, “Take with

gratitude, and never more than what you need.”

He teaches me the phrase, “eminent domain,”

which means “theft,” means “to turn a place

of abundance into a base of destruction.”

The military uprooted trees with bulldozers,

paved the fertile earth with concrete, and planted

toxic chemicals and ordnances in the ground.

Barbed wire fences spread like invasive vines,

whose only fruit are the cancerous tumors

that bloom on every branch of our family tree.

4

Today, the military invites us to collect

plants and trees within areas of Litekyan

slated to be cleared for impending

construction. Fill out the appropriate forms

and wait 14 business days for a background

and security check. If we receive their

permission, they’ll escort us to the site

so we can mark and claim what we want

delivered to us after removal. They say

this is a benevolent gesture, but why

does it feel like a cruel reaping?

5

One tree my dad never showed me is

the endangered hayun lågu, the last

of which is struggling to survive in Litekyan

its only home. Today, the military plans to clear

the surrounding area for a live firing range,

making the tree even more vulnerable

to violent winds, invasive pests, and stray

bullets. Don’t worry, they say. We’ll build

a fence around the tree. They say this is an act

of mitigation, but why does it feel like

the disturbed edge of extinction?

6

Ekungok, ancient whispers rouse the jungle!

Listen, oceanic waves stir against the rocks!

Ekungok, i taotaoʻmona call us to rise!

Listen, i tronkon Yoga’ calls us to stand tall!

Ekungok, i tronkon Lemmai calls us to spread our arms wide!

Listen, i tronkon Nunu calls us to link our hands!

Ekungok, i tronkon Ifit calls us to be firm!

Listen, i tronkon Niyok calls us to never break!

Ekungok, i halom tano’ calls us to surround

i hayun  lågu and chant: “We are the seeds

of the last fire tree! We are the seeds of the last

fire tree! We are the seeds of the last fire tree!

Ahe’! No! We do not give you permission!”

“Family Trees” (poem)

Family Trees

for the 2016 Guam Soil and Water Conservation Districts’ Educator Symposium

1

Before we enter the jungle, my dad

asks permission of the spirits who dwell

within. He walks slowly, with care,

to teach me, like his father taught him,

how to show respect. Then he stops

and closes his eyes to teach me

how to listen. Ekungok, as the winds

exhale and billow the canopy, tremble

the understory, and conduct the wild

orchestra of all breathing things.

2

“Niyok, Lemmai, Ifit, Yoga’, Nunu,” he chants

in a tone of reverence, calling forth the names

of each tree, each elder, who has provided us

with food and medicine, clothes and tools,

canoes and shelter. Like us, they grew in dark

wombs, sprouted from seeds, were nourished

by the light. Like us, they survived the storms

of conquest. Like us, roots anchor them to this

island, giving breath, giving strength to reach

towards the Pacific sky and blossom.

3

“When you take,” my dad says, “Take with

gratitude, and never more than what you need.”

He teaches me the phrase, “eminent domain,”

which means “theft,” means “to turn a place

of abundance into a base of destruction.”

The military uprooted trees with bulldozers,

paved the fertile earth with concrete, and planted

toxic chemicals and ordnances in the ground.

Barbed wire fences spread like invasive vines,

whose only fruit are the cancerous tumors

that bloom on every branch of our family tree.

4

Today, the military invites us to collect

plants and trees within areas of Litekyan

slated to be cleared for impending

construction. Fill out the appropriate forms

and wait 14 business days for a background

and security check. If we receive their

permission, they’ll escort us to the site

so we can mark and claim what we want

delivered to us after removal. They say

this is a benevolent gesture, but why

does it feel like a cruel reaping?

5

One tree my dad never showed me is

the endangered hayun lågu, the last

of which is struggling to survive in Litekyan

its only home. Today, the military plans to clear

the surrounding area for a live firing range,

making the tree even more vulnerable

to violent winds, invasive pests, and stray

bullets. Don’t worry, they say. We’ll build

a fence around the tree. They say this is an act

of mitigation, but why does it feel like

the disturbed edge of extinction?

6

Ekungok, ancient whispers rouse the jungle!

Listen, oceanic waves stir against the rocks!

Ekungok, i taotaoʻmona call us to rise!

Listen, i tronkon Yoga’ calls us to stand tall!

Ekungok, i tronkon Lemmai calls us to spread our arms wide!

Listen, i tronkon Nunu calls us to link our hands!

Ekungok, i tronkon Ifit calls us to be firm!

Listen, i tronkon Niyok calls us to never break!

Ekungok, i halom tano’ calls us to surround

i hayun  lågu and chant: “We are the seeds

of the last fire tree! We are the seeds of the last

fire tree! We are the seeds of the last fire tree!

Ahe’! No! We do not give you permission!”

Guam, Where America’s Voting Rights End

Guam, Where America’s Voting Rights End

1.

My 7th grade social studies teacher made us,

the children of Guam, memorize the names of

all 41 American presidents, whose portraits stared

down at us in the furthest American territory

from the White House. As I recited their names

at home, my parents watched Bill Clinton play

saxophone on television. “Are you voting for him?”

I asked. My dad, wearing his Army t-shirt, said:

“Didn’t your teacher tell you that our votes don’t

count. It don’t matter that we’re citizens or veterans.”    

2.

A few years later, my family migrated to California,

where I became a resident, graduated high school,

and registered to vote. But after Al Gore lost,

I learned that living in the states doesn’t guarantee

your ballot will actually count. I learned how easy

it is to memorize the name of a president who wages

two wars and sharpens your island into a weapon. 

And isn’t that what an American president is: a name

to which our lands and bodies are ultimately sacrificed.

3

When Barack Obama campaigned in 2007, his name

gave me hope because it descended from slavery,

from the civil rights movement, from a mixed raced family,

from the Pacific. Yet Obama only visited Guam once.

In 2011, his plane landed at night on the air force base,

refueled, then departed. That’s when I learned the arc

of history doesn’t bend justice towards Guam. I learned

no matter what the president’s name is, he remains our

commander, and our island remains a forgotten name.

4.

For thirty years, a straw poll on Guam has accurately

predicted the result of U.S. presidential elections. In 2016,

Hillary Clinton won the poll, yet still lost to Donald Trump,

thus breaking our historic (and ironic) streak. I voted for

neither candidate, which felt like a betrayal to my kin

back home, who don’t have a voice in the election.

Some activists now petition to extend voting rights

to the territories; instead, I want our decolonial

voices to be counted, I want Guam’s liberation

from American presidents to be inaugurated.