from Tell Them

from 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
Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner

With thanks to the team at Poetry Parnassus.

Reproduced by kind permission of the author.
Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner is a poet, writer, and journalist. Born in the Marshall Islands and raised in Hawaii, she has worked with Youthspeaks Hawaii, UC Berkeley’s Poetry for the People program, Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation, and the Pacific Islander collective One Love Oceania.

Her solo performance piece entitled Iep Jeltok has been featured at various solo theatre venues. She currently lives in the Marshall Islands and works at the College of the Marshall Islands.

Read more about this poet
About from Tell Them

This poem, representing the Marshall Islands, is part of The Written World – our collaboration with BBC radio to broadcast a poem from every single nation competing in London 2012.