Praise Poem in the Key of Diaspora

Praise the Ocean for teaching me that home is not location as much as it is
belonging where I am wanted 

Praise the Ocean for always wanting me 
for washing my body in and naming it child 

Praise the way the water bites at my ankles 
but never breaks the skin 

Praise the skin on my ankle that had to break for the gun for the tatau drawn by
the gun’s mouth in the hands 

of a tufuga during my first tatau appointment 
on island when I was 17 years old 

Praise his cigarette break  
so I could complete my sobbing in peace. 

Praise the umu, the underground oven of hot rocks and fire cooking the sweet coconut milk in the center of salted leaves for palusami 

for the thick talo and soft fattiness of octopus tentacles 
Praise the crinkled crack of metal on the edge of every can of tuna 

greasy from oiled chunks of fish, peppered over a bowl of hot rice Praise the ground as dining room table 

as only place to eat 
at eating at the feet of our elders as the talking chief blessed us in prayer 

Praise the mother mosquito and her obsession with the back of my legs Praise the stench of repellant that stuck to my skin like boobie trap 

like tourist trick 
like 2nd generation 

like “not quite from here” 
Praise the heavenly scorch of heat behind my ears 

Praise the lowered heads and crossed legs atop each woven fala mat Praise the village of women who wove them 

the mulberry bark that was beaten enough to braid 
Praise the broken flip flops running alongside flattened frogs

on the road headed towards the church house
Praise the choir of children 

who sing with one tongue. 
Praise the way we lay our dead to rest in front of each house 

how there is no need for cemeteries 
if our kin never really die 

Praise the way they return home to us 
Praise home 

Praise us.

Copyright © 2024 by Terisa Siagatonu. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 30, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.