"When The World Falls in Around You or, Vows to My Palestinian Wife on Our Wedding Day" by Lehua Taitano

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May 14, 2024 
 

When The World Falls in Around You or, Vows to My Palestinian Wife on Our Wedding Day

Lehua M. Taitano
after Naomi Shihab Nye

We on the sea cliff all
thrill at December’s licking
wind 

                        [[call down a watery sky
                                    (a ritual) 
                        call on grasses stamped with Saturday shoes
                                    (a circle)
                        call up the kissing foam
                                    (a washing)
                        call to familia, mostly chosen,
                                                                        (a mending)]]]

and hover, for a time
in exquisite love.

My sister unfurls her golden kaftan, 
yokes our hearts’ zealous
champing

                        [[calls upon the holy 
                                    (poetry)
                        calls upon our circle
                                    (familia)
                        calls upon our ancestors
                                    (saina)
                        calls upon the cosmos
                                                   (guma’)]]]
and sings

             It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness

The winter sky sings 

                        my brother’s proud trembling 
                        jaw, your father’s bursting
                        radiant heart.

And you, zaytun of my heart, i asagua-hu.
You wrapped in tales of tatreez, your mother’s thobe.

My dress is made of water 
and invisible feathers dipped 
in moonlight.

I sing
                        [[Halla. New moon. Sinåhi. Hagu I pilån-hu.

                        Let us keep each other safe and soothed and seen. 
                        Let us be in each other’s eyes and minds and guts. 
                        Let us tend our twining love so that it spirals, ever upward, 
                        ever outward, ever toward our shared home. 

The osprey overhead clutches a plump
gulping fish, anoints us with i tåsi.

                        I promise to always to hold you with patience, humility, and
                                   compassion. 

                        I promise to honor you, your ancestors, and your homeland as I
                                   honor my own. 

                        I promise to never stop fighting, until we see freedom for our 
                                   lands and people. 

                        Let us share our struggles, along with our joys. 
                        Let us share our pain, along with our bliss. 
                        Let us share everything, together, i guinaiya-ku, 
                        sa’ tåya’ åmot para man guaiguaiya fuera di mas guinaiya’. 

                                                                 (Because there is no medicine for being in
                                                                            love, except for more love.)
]]]

Copyright © 2024 by Lehua M. Taitano. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 14, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

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“This poem is about my wedding day—a celebration of queer love, (mostly chosen) family, Indigenous ways of knowing and being, and hope. I am disgusted to say that the world continues to struggle with the trauma of an ongoing and unchecked genocide of the Palestinian people; and when I was asked to submit work for the Poem-a-Day series, I could not imagine proposing anything other than a poem that offers love and solidarity in the face of this horror. Inspired to write a piece that offers the best healing I know of, I chose to remember an event that honors the promise of enduring love and resistance and our collective liberation. It includes some of my actual wedding vows to my wife, Halla, who is proudly Palestinian. Writing this poem has reminded me of what we must all do—shamelessly love each other, always stand up for what is right, and embody community and resilience, which brings others into solidarity, until we are all free. Saina Ma’åse’.”
—Lehua M. Taitano

Lehua M. Taitano is a queer CHamoru writer and interdisciplinary artist from Yigu, Guåhan (Guam). She is the author of Inside Me an Island (WordTech Editions, 2018) and A Bell Made of Stones (TinFish Press, 2013). Taitano is the program and community manager at Kearny Street Workshop, and she lives on unceded Ohlone territory (San Francisco). 

Inside Me an Island
(WordTech Editions, 2018)

“Expressing My Feelings to My Future Husband-Wife (Or, Ritual in Which Gender)” by Kayleb Rae Candrilli
read more

“Tall Lyric for Palestine (Or, The Harder Thinking)” by Rickey Laurentiis
read more

Thanks to Noʻu Revilla, author of Ask the Brindled (Milkweed Editions, 2022), who curated Poem-a-Day for this month’s weekdays. Read or listen to a Q&A about Revilla’s curatorial approach and find out more about our Guest Editors for the year.
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