APLN Pacific Islands Creative Competition 2022 Winner
See you soon, lagoon
By Bedi Racule
On the morning of a different life
I greeted my lazy lagoon
My playmate stretched out in waves to say hello
She cradled me in her soft sandy blanket
Her vibrant coral and soft seaweed tickled my toes
Itok kejero mana ek!
Let’s share this fish together, Baba called
My lagoon fed us
Abundant gifts from her very own belly
Take this my child
So that you can have strength to play with me tomorrow
Then one day, the men in white coats came and took us away
I’ll see you soon lagoon
Maybe tomorrow, or the next moon
“Your lagoon is ill today, you cannot see her”
“Your lagoon is not safe”
“Her blanket is a weapon”
“Her waves a warning”
Her belly has become a tomb
And so has mine
Whispers of half-lives and poisonous ash
Flow through the currents
Through the blood in my veins
Through my father’s blood and my brother’s
And my sister’s and mother’s
It is dusk now, will I see my precious lagoon soon?
On World Oceans Day, I reminisced about my love for the ocean which led me to write a poem. I pictured all of the times I walked along Majuro’s beautiful shores or sailed across the lagoon. I envisioned collecting seashells along the shore when I was a little girl, eating my favorite meal of raw fish with Jimma and diving to magnificent coral reefs with my siblings and cousins. Each of these memories made me feel so peaceful and grateful for the ocean. There is no doubt in my heart that a young girl living on Bikini atoll in the 1940s would have felt that same peace and gratitude for her beloved lagoon. The atoll of Bikini is no longer inhabitable today due to contamination from the US nuclear testing program. Because of that, I know that this little girl from Bikini must have known what it feels like to mourn for her ocean habitat and to wait and wish for justice the same way I do. I also pictured the ocean as a living being who suffered alongside her. The little girl and her lagoon endured the devastating impacts of nuclear weapons together including illness, cancer, infertility, loss of loved ones and the loss of connection between people and environment. As the young girl is now approaching the sunset of her life, I know she longs to feel the peace of being reconciled with her lagoon again.
Even 76 years after the first nuclear bomb was detonated in the Marshall Islands, our ocean and people continue to be threatened by the negative impacts of the nuclear weapons. Nuclear waste stored in the Runit Dome by the US is leaking into the ocean and threatens to worsen as climate change causes rising sea levels. Meanwhile, Japan has announced plans to dump nuclear waste into the ocean from the Fukushima power plant (some people might argue that nuclear power is a separate issue, but it isn’t for us). I have also learned that a nuclear war will exacerbate the climate crisis and cause a global famine making the ongoing impacts of nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands even worse. The way that this nuclear legacy unravels, tests my faith… but I will never lose faith in our ultimate provider, the ocean – it embodies the true meaning of sustainability: take care of the ocean and the abundant ocean with its renewable resources, will take care of us. This love and passion for the ocean is what connects us – past, present and future. My poem, entitled “See you soon lagoon,” combines that love for the ocean with our nuclear legacy in a call to act for justice and peace.
About the Competition Winner
Bedi Racule hails from the Marshall Islands and Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia, with links to Hawaii and Fiji. She will be graduating with her postgraduate degree in Development Studies from the University of the South Pacific where she was serving as president of MISA4thePacific – a grassroots youth nuclear justice organization. Bedi is now engaged as the Ecumenical Enabler for Climate Justice at the Pacific Conference of Churches and steering committee member of the Nuclear Truth Project. She recently attended the First Meeting of State Parties to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Vienna, Austria where she shared the Pacific’s nuclear legacy and call for justice and peace. During her free time, Bedi loves spending time with her husband and two children.
Thumbnail image: Kurakurakurarin, iStock