ginen aerial roots [off-island chamorus]

Craig Santos Perez



hasso' the entrance
to guam international airport
resembles i sakman                                           : outrigger canoe

"flying proa"
because it swiftly skimmed

[we] wait
at the gate
talk story with relatives
take pictures
wave goodbye

[we] board
i batkon aire                                                            : air boat

one-way flight
on continental

the name
of our airlines

the name
of our destination



                hasso' first day
at my new high school in california
the homeroom teacher asks
"where are you from"

                  "the mariana islands"
                  i answer

"i've never heard of that place"
                                    he replies "prove it exists"

yet when i step in front of the world map on the classroom wall
                                    it transforms into a mirror :

the pacific ocean                                                                          like my body
split                                                                                                      in two
& flayed                                                                                             to the margins

find australia                              philippines                           japan

                  then point to the empty space between
                                      "i'm from this invisible archipelago"

my classmates laugh     & even though i descend from
                   oceanic navigators             i feel so lost


shipwrecked                                                                                    on the coast
of a strange                                                                                       continent



"are you a citizen"
the teacher probes

my island guam
is us territory"
i explain

                                                                          [we] attend american schools
                                                                             eat american food
                                                                             listen to american music
                                                                             watch american movies
                                                                             play american sports
                                                                             learn american history
                                                                             dream american dreams
                                                                             & die in american wars

                                                                             : what follows your flag

"you speak english well"
he proclaims

"with almost no accent"

& isn't that what it means
to be                                                                 a diasporic chamoru

to feel foreign
in a domestic sense


[hale nunu : ficus prolixa]

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Craig Santos Perez is a Chamoru from Guam. He is the author of six books of poetry and the editor of seven anthologies. He is a professor in the English department at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Richmond, California

"Craig Santos Perez continues to expand visual literacies of Pacific Literature as he grapples with the question: what does it mean to write the ocean? Here are handwoven, blessed nets of intergenerational Chamoru stories. If a poem could unstitch a barbed wire fence, throw net, play bingo, unshipwreck Indigenous youth, care for elders, or heal a broken heart with Spam, that poem is in these pages. Propelled by gratitude, this book is a call to defy and protect, a sea of poetic innovation and care."
—Noʻu Revilla, author of Ask the Brindled

"In from unincorporated territory [åmot], Craig Santos Perez sings down healing for the speaker who asks, 'isn’t that too / what it means to be / a diasporic chamorus // to feel foreign in your own homeland.' Each poem probes this question against the continued disenfranchisement and militarization of Guåhan and the CHomoru people. From elegies for loved ones, continual rewriting of prayer, and eating rice with the grandmother, the rituals in this collection bear the histories of family, of the church’s spiritual abuse, and of the colonization of the island. But for endurance and renewal there is hope; each poem-story is itself a plant that yields a seed the speaker gathers. Each seed bursts its casing to branch into a meeting place for inter-generational memory and wisdom. What was deemed unworthy, flowers wildly, coded in the name of the plants reclaiming their CHamoru names banking these pages. In this collection Craig Santos Perez’s vital poems prove yet again that his necessary and clear voice is one that shakes the foundations of nation and demands of the reader to consider their complicity in the machinations of Empire."
—Rajiv Mohabir, author of Cutlish

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