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craig santos perez

craig santos perez

Disaster Haiku

   after cyclone winston after typhoon yutu after hurricane maria after…


the world

 briefly sees


only after

the eye

of a storm

sees us














A Sonnet at The Edge of the Reef

   the Waikīkī Aquarium


We dip our hands into the outdoor reef exhibit

and touch sea cucumber and red urchin

as butterflyfish swim by. A docent explains:

once a year, after the full moon, when tides swell

to a certain height, and saltwater reaches the perfect

temperature, only then will the ocean cue coral

polyps to spawn, in synchrony, a galaxy of gametes,

which dances to the surface, fertilizes, opens,

forms larvae, roots to seafloor, and grows, generation

upon generation. At home, we read a children’s

book, The Great Barrier Reef, to our daughter

snuggling between us in bed. We don’t mention

corals bleaching, reared in labs, or frozen.

And isn’t our silence, too, a kind of shelter?







The Last Safe Habitat

   for the Kauaiʻi ʻŌʻō, whose song was last heard in 1987




I don’t want our daughter to know

that Hawaiʻi is the bird extinction capitol

of the world. I don’t want her to walk

around the island feeling haunted

by tree roots buried under concrete.

I don’t want her to fear the invasive

predators who slither, pounce,

bite, swallow, disease, and multiply.

I don’t want her to see paintings

and photographs of birds she’ll never

witness in the wild. I don’t want her to

imagine their bones in dark museum

drawers. I don’t want her to hear

their voice recordings on the internet.

I don’t want her to memorize and recite

the names of 77 lost species and subspecies.

I don’t want her to draw a timeline

with the years each was “first collected”

and “last sighted.” I don’t want her to learn

about the Kauaʻi ʻŌʻō, who was observed

atop a flowering ‘Ōhiʻa tree, calling

for a mate, day after day, season after

season, because he didn’t know he was

the last of his kind––

            until one day, he disappeared,

forever, into a nest of avian silence.

I don’t want our daughter to calculate

how many miles of fencing is needed

to protect the endangered birds

that remain. I don’t want her to realize

the most serious causes of extinction

can’t be fenced out. I want to convince her

that extinction is not the end. I want

to convince her that extinction is

just a migration to the last safe habitat

on earth. I want to convince her

that our winged relatives have arrived

safely to their destination: a wondrous

island with a climate we can never

change, and a rainforest fertile

with seeds and song.

         Skip ahead in this issue to an interview with Craig Santos Perez on Pacific Ecopoetics. 

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craig santos perez

is an indigenous Chamorro poet from the Pacific Island of Guam. He is the author of four collections of poetry and the co-editor of five anthologies. He is an associate professor in the English department at the University of Hawaiʻi, Mānoa. 

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