Praise Song for Oceania*
(on June 8, 2016, World Oceans Day)

“Ocean, we // had been your griot”
—Brenda Hillman

praise
your capacity
for birth / your fluid
currents and trenchant
darkness / praise your contracting
waves & dilating
horizons / praise our briny
beginning, the source
of every breath / praise
your endless bio-
diversity / praise

your capacity
for renewal / your rise
into clouds and descent
into rain / praise your underground
aquifers / your rivers & lakes,
ice sheets & glaciers / praise
your watersheds &
hydrologic cycles / praise

your capacity
to endure / the violence
of those who claim dominion
over you / who map you
empty ocean to pillage / who divide you
into latitudes & longitudes /
who scar your middle
passages / who exploit
your economy* / praise

your capacity
to survive / our trawling
boats / breaching /
your open body /
& taking from your
collapsing depths / praise

your capacity
to dilute / our sewage
& radioactive waste /
our pollutants & plastics /
our heavy metals
& greenhouse gases / praise

your capacity
to bury / soldiers & terrorists,
slaves & refugees / to bury
our last breath
of despair / to bury
the ashes of our
loved ones / praise

your capacity
to remember / praise
your library of drowned
stories / praise your museum
of lost treasures / praise
our migrant routes
& submarine roots / praise

your capacity
to penetrate /
praise your rising tides
& relentless storms & towering
tsunamis & feverish
floods / praise

your capacity
to smother /
schools of fish & wash them
ashore to save them
from our cruelty /
to show us what we’re
no longer allowed to take
/ to starve us like your corals
are being starved & bleached /
like your liquid lungs
choked of oxygen / praise

your capacity
to forgive / please
forgive our territorial hands
& acidic breath / please
forgive our nuclear arms
& naval bodies / please
forgive our concrete dams
& cabling veins / please
forgive our deafening sonar
& lustful tourisms / please
forgive our invasive drilling
& deep sea mining / please
forgive our extractions
& trespasses / praise

your capacity
for mercy / please
let our grandfathers and fathers
catch just one more fish / please
make it stop raining soon / please
make it rain soon / please
spare our fragile farms & fruit trees / please
spare our low-lying islands & atolls / please
spare our coastal villages & cities / please
let us cross safely to a land
without war / praise

your capacity
for hope /
praise your rainbow
warrior & peace
boat / your hokuleʻa
& sea shepherd / praise
your arctic sunrise & flotillas
of hope / praise your nuclear free
& independent pacific movement /
praise your marine stewardship
councils & sustainable
fisheries / praise your radical
seafarers & native navigators /
praise your sacred water walkers /
praise your activist kayaks
& canoes / praise your ocean
conservancies & surfrider foundations /
praise your aquanauts & hyrdolabs /
praise your coastal cleanups
& Google Oceans /
praise your whale hunting
& shark finning bans /
praise your sanctuaries
& no take zones / praise
your pharmacopeia of new
antibiotics / praise your wave
and tidal energy / praise your
#oceanoptimism & Ocean
Elders /praise

your capacity
for echo
location / our names for you /
that translate
into creation stories
& song maps
tasi & kai & tai & moana nui & vasa &
tahi & lik & wai tui & daob & wonsolwara /
praise

your capacity
for communion /
praise our common heritage /
praise our pathway
& promise to each other / praise
our endless saga / praise our most powerful
metaphor / praise this vision
of belonging / praise your horizon
of care / praise our blue planet,
one world ocean / praise our trans-oceanic
past, present & future flowing
through our blood /

*Phrases are quoted from or inspired by various scholars and poets, including Epeli Hauʻofa, Derek Walcott, Elizabeth DeLoughrey, Rob Wilson, Peter Neill, Sylvia Earle, Édouard Glissant, and Albert Wendt. The words chanted are the words for ocean in various Pacific languages. The epigraph is from Brenda Hillman’s poem, “The Pacific Ocean,” from her book Practical Water (Wesleyan University Press, 2009), 26. The gross marine product of the ocean is 2.5 trillion dollars.

© , Craig Santos Perez | Visual design by Jai Arun Ravine.