This is when the warm ocean gives birth to a cyclone— This is when we give a human name to a thing we can’t control— This is when wind triggers warning system & rain echoes violent refrain— This is when evacuation is another word for shelter & debris is another word for home— This is when we hold our children close and whisper: don’t be scared, we won’t let go— This is when flood waters whisper: let go— This is when survivors become drone footage & social media— This is when disaster trauma attracts tourism— This is when the world finally sees us: only after the eye of a storm sees us— This is when we chant: we will overcome— This is when we fundraise and benefit concert— This is when corporations promise green development and politicians siphon aid and investment— This is when disaster justifies another military coup— This is when we migrate with or without dignity— This is when remittance becomes another word for family— This is when we wish we could give more— This is when looking for bodies becomes prayer, when counting bodies becomes prayer, when counting donations becomes prayer, when counting days until the next storm becomes prayer— This is when our sea of vulnerable islands becomes an archipelago of prayer—
My oldest memory is waking up to a cockroach staring at me. It
doesn’t move as I reach with my toddler fingers and clutch
its dark body. When I bite down it hisses—legs and wings fluttering.
Have you ever seen a decapitated cockroach scurry? Dirty migrants,
refugees, poor black and brown hordes, hopeless to exterminate.
Poems about cockroaches reveal survival secrets: find warmth,
potable water, leftovers; be social, migratory, resilient; have a fuck-you,
will-to-thrive, there-are-too-many- of-us attitude; avoid the violent light
of human eyes. They say the end is near when rising seas threaten
cockroach populations because they can’t swim. But don’t worry:
they’re the first terrestrial beings to birth in space. They’re pre-Jurassic,
post-nuclear, post-human, post-glacial. I can still remember
its antennae searching my tongue for the foul saliva of extinction.
Blessed be the cockroaches, for they shall inherit the warming earth.
Craig Santos Perez
Craig Santos Perez is a native Chamorro poet from the Pacific Island of Guam. He is the author of four books, most recently from unincorporated territory [lukao] (Omnidawn, 2017). His third book, from unincorporated territory [guma’] won the American Book Award. He teaches at the University of Hawaiʻi, Mānoa.