For December 18, 2016, Rajiv Mohabir shares poems in response to the theme Water Is Life. Check out his poems below plus a curated playlist by the poet himself.
INTRO FROM THE POET:
- For “Stomach Full of Trash”: Since “WATER IS LIFE” these poems stretch into the deep to bring to light the status of a human-made ecological crisis that circles the oceans in gyres. That plastic waste clogs the sea is no secret. There have been a staggering number of news articles about sperm whales washing ashore, their stomachs filled and perforated by plastic trash. One such article said that this was an omen of humankind’s doom. I balked at the thought that the sperm whale was a messenger to warn humans; that cetacean life, and all non-human life exists to serve humans. It reminded me of the way that the British once saw South Asian laborers or the way that the United States breaks treaties with Natives and use their stolen land for commercial oil. This poem is my outrage.
- For “Underwater Acoustics”: The deep in not a silent space. Now the American Navy is using sonar testing that ruptures cetaceans’ internal timpani. The occupiers stretch out and appropriate Kanaka Maoli land to exploit them and their resources. This poem was about an encounter I had when I jumped into the ocean when the humpbacks painted the blue with their songs. From the surface I couldn’t hear them, nor could I imagine the wonder of their singing. I feel as though jumping into their soundscape, their net of music, I began to transform. My being in Hawai‘i has opened my eyes to the struggles of the people here and I want to add my voice to their chorus, to say, the people of the land are the people the land will remember. I want to say with my whale-voice quoting Eleanor Kekoaohiwaikalani Wright Prendergast, famous are the flowers, the children of Hawai‘i.
BIO: Winner of 2015 AWP Intro Journal Award and the 2014 Intro Prize in Poetry by Four Way Books for his first full-length collection The Taxidermist’s Cut (2016), and recipient of a PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant, Rajiv Mohabir received fellowships from The Home School, Voices of Our Nation’s Artist foundation, Kundiman, and the American Institute of Indian Studies language program. His second volume of poetry The Cowherd’s Son won the 2015 Kundiman Prize and is forthcoming in May 2017 from Tupelo Press. He received his MFA in Poetry and Translation from at Queens College, CUNY where he was Editor in Chief of the Ozone Park Literary Journal. Currently he is pursuing a PhD in English from the University of Hawai`i, where he teaches poetry and composition. http://www.rajivmohabir.com/
I am also grateful to share this poem from Samoan American poet Terisa Tinei Siagatonu, titled “Atlas,” which is about the intersection of climate justice, identity, and colonialism. I am sharing this poem with permission of the poet.