Memorial Day in the Pacific, 2016

Craig Santos Perez


america declares federal holiday, we
mourn daily. america says 3-day weekend,
we recite 9-day prayers. america plays
sunday night football, we hail mary, full
of death, the lord fumbled. america
barbeques, yet no matter how much we eat,
the chairs around the table are still
empty. america marks the beginning
of summer, grief is our endless sea
-son. america marches


in parades, we dust photo albums.
america blooms flowers and fireworks,
we wilt and ashes. america observes
a moment of silence, we miss
their voices. america says national
cemetery, we say mass grave. america
waves its flag, yet our flags are too tightly
folded. america sings “land of the free,”
we whisper “continent of thieves.”


america says recruiter’s paradise,
we say home. america dons uniforms,
we covered in shrouds. america pledges
allegiance, our heartbeats, a continuous
gun salute. america recounts names
of the dead, we count the stolen
generations. america thanks us for
our sacrifice, we bow before our
cruel god. god commands, “be
all you can be,” we ask “when
will we ever be


craig-perezDr. Craig Santos Perez is a native Chamorro from the Pacific Island of Guam. He is the author of three books, most recently from unincorporated territory [guma’], which received an American Book Award in 2015. He holds a Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, and he is currently an associate professor in the English department at the University of Hawaiʻi, Mānoa.




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