Today I am setting aside the endless to-do lists,
the coffee filters that need picking up, the refrigerator
that has stopped working, the press releases about wave flooding 
inundations on Arno, Namu, Ailinlaplap, and the simultaneous drought. 
How can I feel lonely when I am submerged 
in catastrophe? In the constant reminder that someday 
this island could be gone. 
But that’s not the official messaging—is it?  
Instead, we say we will exist
indefinitely. Rooted against the tides,
rooted against trillion-dollar industries. We will,
we will. Exist. Exist. 

                                 It’s a kind of 
love, isn’t it? 
To commit to enduring. 
Despite, despite. And is my loneliness capable
of that kind of enduring love? 
Where are you? When I’m lost at sea
and there is no one to tell me where to go. 
Marshallese queerness doesn’t exist, 
should it? Even if I was to say 
I exist. Here I am. Do you? 

You are somewhere out there, 
covered in kaōnōn, its orange creeping
vines, parasitic, protecting you from demons.
And my loneliness, like coral
polyps, bobbing in the sea.

Copyright © 2024 by Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 20, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.