Tony de Brum, former vice-president and foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, died yesterday. I was tremendously privileged to have helped him a bit with his campaign against climate change; he was a great man from a small country.
Another much younger leading politician from the Marshall Islands, Mattlan Zackhras, died earlier this month. The Marshallese poet Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner wrote this moving tribute to them both.
What I will tell my daughter about her name
(dedicated to Mattlan and Tony)
is the name of a land in the Marshalls
where your mother’s family is from
We named you knowing
it has one of the few pools
I have not been
You are an unknown land
one I will spend my life journeying to see
Our relationship will be salt and waves
but you will always be
refreshing, a thirst
that was quenched
They say there are no mountains
in the Marshalls
the land that is close
to an expiration date
But I will tell you the mountains
giants who walked across the sea
sounding the call for the world
to hear our story.