What I will tell my daughter about her name

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
of freshwater

I have not been
to Peinam

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
were men
giants who walked across the sea
sounding the call for the world
to hear our story.

One thought on “What I will tell my daughter about her name

  1. I love Brian Aldiss’s description from thirty years ago of good sf being stories which are not about “What if?” but about “My God, what if…?!”

    That’s a really interesting notion. Where did he say it?

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