"[ode to the water beneath Kapūkakī also known as Red Hill]" by Jake Eduardo Vermaas

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May 8, 2024 
 

[ode to the water beneath Kapūkakī also known as Red Hill]

Jake Eduardo Vermaas
“How ashamed water is to be what you have made it.”
—Conchitina Cruz

this week i was becoming          it was the eve of a storm i was forming
 
into fluid preparing to              change state or nation into occupied
 
land over a crime scene        a body of water not over a woman but
 
oceanic in that way.              now i’m new here & no genius but even
 
i know water is life;              what is the harvest of a tank farm? what
 
grows? nobody                   deserves this, not even the random ate in
 
waipahu who                   told me why can’t you just get over martial
 
law as if we                    could have even gotten to find his body or an
 
ordinary                    grief. even servants of empire can be my kapwa.
 
what is a             colony against that? what if i got a bottle of pinatubo
 
water                    shipped here the same wai that along with lava rushed
 
down our                  mountain in grey torrents to turn one US base into
 
a ruin                              the other evacuated, tails between its legs? what
 
if i offered                                     that water to this land in places, bit by
 
bit, to say:                                              you’re not alone. keep fighting

Copyright © 2024 by Jake Eduardo Vermaas. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 8, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.

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“Written soon after my first intense Kona Low weather event after moving to Hawaiʻi back in 2021, this poem attempts to engage with the shared spaces of grief and water, how to be a good guest, and how the cancer of militarism that poisoned my Kapampangan homeland did the same to Red Hill and Kahoʻolawe, and the common threads we struggle against. It thinks about the Filipino concept of kapwa, that is, ‘shared common self’ or ‘shared space’; how the roots of the word ode relate to the Greek aidein, or ‘to sing,’ and how there can be joy in solidarity.”
—Jake Eduardo Vermaas

Jake Eduardo Vermaas is a Filipino American poet and engineer. He was raised on unceded Shoshone-Bannock lands and now lives in occupied Hawai‘i.
 

“For Mauna a Wākea” by Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio
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“Make Me Human or Give Me Death” by May Yang
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