The Weavers Were the First to Know

The invasion came like a whisper,
and the leaves changed shapes, 
and the niyok grew sick.

Coconut trees,
our culture’s tree of life,
dying slowly 
as invasive beetles 
eat their hearts 
like world powers 
devour islands.

Weavers hold culture in their 
weave tradition into their families,
tuck young palms 
into their fingers,
mold them into 

But now,
our culture’s tree of life 
has grown ill from 
foreign settlement.

Palms severed,
bent like a salute
the way Chamorros are cut like cards
and dealt in front lines of American wars.

The weavers were the first to know
that our niyok is 
in need of healing.

The same way our island is 
in need of healing.

I’ve taken up the craft,
so I can weave
into the palms of my children.

I can only hope that when 
I master it,

palms will remain
for them

to weave into our future.


Copyright © 2022 by Arielle Taitano Lowe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 27, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I wrote ‘The Weavers’ during National Poetry Month in April 2014. During this time, I started to learn about weaving from my Uncle Jose Cruz (who was also my college English and CHamoru tutor at the time) and my future weaving teacher, James Cruz Bamba. I became educated about the impact of the invasive coconut rhinoceros beetle on Guam’s palm tree populations. ‘The Weavers’ is a poem inspired by Indigenous weavers and their knowledge, and is about my coming of age as an apprentice weaver and a CHamoru woman. This piece braids together CHamoru culture, ecology, language, and aesthetics.”
Arielle Taitano Lowe