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Friday, April 20, 2018

Atlas | A Poem by TERISA SIAGATONU

If you open up any atlas
and take a look at a map of the world,
almost every single one of them
slices the Pacific Ocean in half.



To the human eye,
every map centers all the land masses on Earth
creating the illusion
that water can handle the butchering
and be pushed to the edges
of the world.
As if the Pacific Ocean isn’t the largest body
living today, beating the loudest heart,
the reason why land has a pulse in the first place.

The audacity one must have to create a visual so
violent as to assume that no one comes
from water so no one will care
what you do with it
and yet,
people came from land,
are still coming from land,
and look what was done to them.

When people ask me where I’m from,
they don’t believe me when I say water.
So instead, I tell them that home is a machete
and that I belong to places
that don’t belong to themselves anymore,
broken and butchered places that have made me
a hyphen of a woman:
a Samoan-American that carries the weight of both
colonizer and colonized,
both blade and blood.

California                          stolen.
Samoa                                        sliced in half                                          stolen.
California, nestled on the western coast of the most powerful
country on this planet.
Samoa, an island so microscopic on a map, it’s no wonder
people doubt its existence.
California, a state of emergency away from having the drought
rid it of all its water.
Samoa, a state of emergency away from becoming a saltwater cemetery
if the sea level doesn’t stop rising.
When people ask me where I’m from,
what they want is to hear me speak of land,
what they want is to know where I go once I leave here,
the privilege that comes with assuming that home
is just a destination, and not the panic.
Not the constant migration that the panic gives birth to.
What is it like? To know that home is something
that’s waiting for you to return to it?
What does it mean to belong to something that isn’t sinking?
What does it mean to belong to what is causing the flood?

So many of us come from water
but when you come from water
no one believes you.
Colonization keeps laughing.
Global warming is grinning
at all your grief.
How you mourn the loss of a home
that isn’t even gone yet.
That no one believes you’re from.

How everyone is beginning
to hear more about your island
but only in the context of
vacations and honeymoons,
football and military life,
exotic women exotic fruit exotic beaches
but never asks about the rest of its body.
The water.
The islands breathing in it.
The reason why they’re sinking.
No one visualizes islands in the Pacific
as actually being there.
You explain and explain and clarify
and correct their incorrect pronunciation
and explain

until they remember just how vast your ocean is,
how microscopic your islands look in it,
how easy it is to miss when looking
on a map of the world.

Excuses people make
for why they didn’t see it
before.

Source: Poetry Foundation


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