Friday, 24 August 2018

Monster - Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner

Sometimes I wonder if Marshallese women are the chosen ones.

I wonder if someone selected us from a stack. Drew us out slow. Methodical. Then, issued the order:

Give birth to nightmares. Show the world what happens. When the sun explodes inside you.

How many stories of nuclear war are hidden in our bodies?

574 – the number of stillbirths and miscarriages after the bombs of 1951. Before the bombs? 52.

Bella Compoj told the UN she could no longer have children. That she saw her friends give birth to ugly things.

Nerik gave birth to something resembling the eggs of a sea turtle and Flora gave birth to something like the intestines1

She told this to a committee of men who washed their hands of this sin – these women who bore unholy things – created from exploding spit and ugly things.

And how these women buried their nightmares. Beneath a coconut tree. Pretended it never happened. Sinister. Hideous. Monster. More jellyfish than child.

And yet. They could see the chest inhale. Exhale. Could it be

human?

Nerik gave birth to something resembling the eggs of a sea turtle and Flora gave birth to something like intestines.

In our legends lives a monster. Mejenkwaad. Woman demons – unhinged jaws swallowing canoes, men, babies. Whole. Shark teeth in the backs of their head. Necks that stretch around an entire island, bloodthirsty. Hungry for babies and pregnant women. Monsters.

My three-year-old likes to hunt for monsters in our closet. We use the light of my cell phone. A blue glow in the dark. We whisper to each other –  did you hear that?

Did I hear what?

The silence of my dreams is severed by her screaming nightmares. And I am a mewling mess turned monster huddled in the corner wide-eyed, wild haired, unable to touch, unable to care, unable to bear the exhaustion, anxiety clawing away at my chest. Am I even

human? Post-partum – easier to diagnose after the fact. Two years later those memories haunt me. When I became the bump in the night. When I realized I needed to protect her. From me.

Did you hear that?

Nerik gave birth to something resembling the eggs of a sea turtle and Flora gave birth to something like intestines.

In our legends lives a monster. Woman demons, unhinged jaws. Swallowing their own babies. Driven mad. Turned flesh rotten. Blood through their eyes their teeth their nose.

Were the women who gave birth to nightmares considered monsters? Were they driven mad by these unholy things that came from their bodies? Were they sick with the feeling of horror that perhaps there was something

wrong. With them.

My three-year-old sleeps next to me. I have lost my fangs and ugly dreams. I watch her chest inhale. Exhale. Know that she is real, she is mine. I try to write forgiveness and healing into our story. Into myself.

In legends lives a woman. Turned monster from loneliness. Turned monster from agony and suns exploding in her chest. She gives birth to a child that is not so much a child but too much a jellyfish. The child is struggling for breath. Struggling in pain. She wants to bring the child peace. Bring her home. Her first home. Inside her body.

It is an embrace. It is only. An embrace. She kneels next to the body.



And inhales.

Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner (21st century) Marshall Islands
Source: Kathy's blog: Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner
1: Glenn Alcalay, “The Sociocultural Impact of Nuclear Weapons Tests in the Marshall Islands,” (unpublished field report: 1981) 1-2.

1 comment:

  1. A hauntingly vivid poem of the harsh realities of Marhsallese women.

    ReplyDelete

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