Tano I’ Man Chamorro

by danielle P. williams

Tano I’ Man Chamorro.[1]
But who am I really?

I was once described as a half breed.
I was once described as royalty.

My nana used to tell me I was the sea.
Free to be anything, or anywhere.

The allowance of new people to new places,
the ebb and flow of cultures unknown.

The last time I visited Saipan, my elders told me I looked
like them. They described many taotaomona[2] bearing our name,

traced their fingers to my features, and applauded
the continuance of a culture that was told to be dying.

I remember smiling at the few words I could make out.
I remember wondering what life would be like if my

grandparents had passed on the language instead
of leaving us to feel like strangers in the midst of family.

I was once described as poison.
I was once described as anointed.

My poison comes from my “tainted” blood.
With a name not given by this land.

I take to my feet. To the sand. My hands, crescents
curved to the sky, tell my story through palms and hula hips.

I sometimes feel the aniti[3] on me.
I’m told that means I am chosen.

They come to me in dreams. In waves of emotion
with my eyes wide open, and curious.

They tell me prophecies. Issue warnings.
Wish me well. Whisper things in the night I must

decipher through loved ones who hear them, the oracles
of the night, ancestors long buried. Visiting like the tide.

Tano’ I Man Chamorro.
But, who am I really?

My nana used to tell me I was the sea.

 

[1] Land of the Chamorro’s; I am Chamorro
[2] People before time
[3] Spirits

 

 

Danielle P. Williams is a poet from Columbia, South Carolina. She holds a BA from Elon University and is a MFA candidate at George Mason University. Williams is a 2019 Alan Cheuse MFA Fellow, Associate Editorial Intern for Poetry Daily, and Poetry Editor for So To Speak. She strives to write poetry that gives voice to unrepresented cultures, and has a passion for understanding and connecting with the past, making it a point to expand on the narratives and experiences of her own cultures. You can find her poetry published and forthcoming online at Scalawag Magazine, All The SinsThe Write Launch, Obra/Artifact, and Praxis Center.

 

Art by Michelle Johnsen, art editor

Michelle Johnsen is a nature and portrait photographer in Lancaster, PA, as well as an amateur herbalist and naturalist. Her work has been featured by It’s Modern Art, Susquehanna Style magazine, Permaculture Activist magazine, EcoWatch.com, EarthFirst! Journal, Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, and used as album art for Grandma Shake!, Anna & Elizabeth, and Liz Fulmer Music. Michelle’s photos have also been stolen by APweather.com, The Daily Mail, and Lancaster Newspapers. You can contact her at mjphoto717 [at] gmail.com.