January 8, 2010KR BlogKR

Testimony of the Colonized

I’m writing a poem about the moon. Of course I am. I’m a poet; poets write about the moon. But more specifically, I’m working on poem that investigates our (by which I mean mostly scientists’ and venture capitalists’, I suppose) excitement about the discovery of water when we bombed the moon ??? enough water to potentially sustain life. Human life, that is.

A computer simulation of the impact

Why do humans get to shoot off into space to colonize and wreck other planets now that we’ve done a number on planet earth? (Oh yes, I will be blogging about Avatar next week!)

I’m thinking about how eagerly we (by which I mean the Global North, I suppose) conquer and colonize. A few days ago, I typed “testimony of the colonized” into Google, seeking voices of resistance that have worked their way into the cyberspace net.

First hit: Testimony: Harmful Effects Of Guam’s Colonization. Now, I know as much about Guam as the average American. Which is to say, about this much:

Going web surfing, I learn that Guam (Guah??n) has been occupied and colonized since the 1500’s ??? first by the Spanish, then the U.S., then Japan during WWII. And now, it’s back in U.S. control as an “organized, unincorporated territory.”

At this very moment, the U.S. military is proposing a massive buildup in Guam that will ??? according to its own Draft Environmental Impact Statement ??? bring a whole lot of ecological damage to the island, not to mention overwhelm its infrastructure and turn the native people of Guam, the Chamorro, into a minority group in their own land.

Forget the future colonization moon, aggressive colonization is happening right now.

I turn, as I seem to do in these situations, to poetry. For some time, I’ve been meaning to read Craig Santos Perez’s from Unincorporated Territories [hacha] (Tinfish Press, 2008). After I find out about the military buildup, I go and get myself a copy of the book and started reading.

I think about language a lot ??? language as fabric and tear, language as action and counter action, language as meaning making and unmaking. In Perez’s book, language is a “throw net: talaya” cast into roiling waters.


Hand over fist, tongue out of mouth, he pulls up personal and political history. Not mono, but polylingual, woven ropes of English and Guah??n and Japanese. We learn the words as we learn the poems. We puzzle it out. We read forward and backwards through time and space. Voiced lines and voices weave, enacting the violent disruptions of the colonized experience. But this is more than testimony of what has happened, it is creation of what should be.

As the military buildup in Guam continues to press on, Perez’s from Unincorporated Territories [hacha] is a terribly vital read. And achingly beautiful. Like the moon.