Monday, January 30, 2017

Poems of Resistance, Power & Resilience – Aimee Suzara

Close up image of a microphone on a stage. The audience that is facing the microphone is blurred, appearing as a myriad of colors (red, white, green, yellow, etc.)
As the incoming administration builds its agenda of attack on marginalized people, on freedom of speech, on the earth itself, poetry will continue to be an essential voice of resistance. Poets will speak out in solidarity, united against hatred, systemic oppression, and violence and for justice, beauty, and community.
In this spirit, Split This Rock is offering its blog as a Virtual Open Mic. For the rest of this frightening month, January of 2017, we invite you to send us poems of resistance, power, and resilience.

We will post every poem we receive unless it is offensive (containing language that is derogatory toward marginalized groups, that belittles, uses hurtful stereotypes, explicitly condones or implies a call for violence, etc.). After the Virtual Open Mic closes, we hope to print out and mail all of the poems to the White House.

For guidelines on how to submit poems for this call, visit the Call for Poems of Resistance, Power & Resilience blog post


Because Water is Life
By Aimee Suzara

Originally written 10/29/16, in solidarity with the Sioux People and Water Protectors at Standing Rock working to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, inspired by Craig Santos Perez’ poem “Water is Life”

Once upon a time my ancestors lived beside the water
Fishing, capturing crabs from the sea, the fine sand mingled with sweat on their skin
And when I return to water the parts of mine recognize their source

Because water is life
Because water is life I honor the dagat and all of its fishes
And when I look at the ocean I am dreaming my origins
Because the Philippines is an archipelago
And every land is an island, bigger or smaller
Because no land is really dominant or superior or main
Because water is the ilog that rushes
And even when we dam rivers they rise up in a storm

Because water was our first home inside the womb
And water was the first sound we heard when we floated
And water was natural when we learned how to breathe
So as babies we remember how to swim
Because water is the condensation of rain and rain
Is the consequence of water, and we forget then that we end
Where we begin

Because in that forgetting we become like machines and try
To extract another liquid, oil, which helps us fuel other machines
To be bigger, faster and stronger
But we can’t drink oil though we act like we can
But oil kills the water, so our dependence on oil is a killing of water

Because the Sioux and the Water Protectors are guarding the water
In order to stop Oil from being transported by machines
And destroying the river and sacred places
Because the Dakota Access Pipeline is disturbing the dead
And disturbing the living for 7 Generations

Because the police have become like machines
Bearing militarized vehicles and pepper spray
And Water Protectors bear blankets and feathers and prayers
Because the police wear riot gear
And say the protestors are rioting
Because grandmothers and children and horses stand
As they have for centuries to guard the land
Because this very much reminds us of earlier treaties broken
Because this very much reminds us of how the United States was founded
Upon the burial grounds and sacred sites of Native and Indigenous people everywhere
Upon the dead with no respect for the living
Threatening the living with no respect for the dead

Because this is what the United States stands for
Harbingers of death, not protectors of life
Because water is life and life is our birthright

Because this very much reminds me of the colonizing of my people
Because water was used by this government as water torture
Because water was used by this government as an image of civilizing the savage
Because water is the metaphor for washing the culture from our brains
Because water was the gift of our islands and then you took us
Because you saw the water not as life but as passageway for machines,
And guns and ships, and Pacific military bases
Because you did that too in Guam and Hawaii
Because you showed no remorse for those you killed when we fought for independence
Because you used water not for life but for transporting bodies
To provide labor for your machines to serve your dominance
Because water became a graveyard of bodies, a passage of bones

Because you have turned water into a tool of death
But water is life and you need it to live
Must we remind you, over again?
That water is life, and water is life
Because water is life.

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