As ever, I am interested in the intersection between poetry and storytelling, how the voice in a poem can leap from the page (or screen) and tell a story of its own.
This story that Nacanieli Seru told me in Nukuloa-i-Gau, Fiji has been haunting me for nearly three months. While I didn’t have the audio recorder on while he told it––it’s not explicitly a water story or a climate change story, either––I think it belongs here.
They told us to turn our backs. We stood on the beach, all 300 of us from the Fijian Navy Reserves. It was a beautiful, blue day on Christmas Island, the day they tested the British hydrogen bomb.
I could feel the heat. The top of the explosion was like ice cream. Billowing fire.
Some of us, when we came back, our hair fell out. Most of us, when we came back, had miscarriages.
I knew something was wrong when albatross fell out of the air, dead. Birds farther away flew into buildings, blind.
My son was born two years later. He was always sick.
Sakiusa Seru died at age forty-nine. In the autopsy they couldn’t find anything wrong.
It’s a thing you wouldn’t wish on any parent, having to bury their child.