Published on Academy of American Poets (

Seawall soliloquy number two: she built a seawall

My cousin 

had a nightmare 

that we kept 

building seawalls 

higher and 


all around 

our island 

up to 

the sky 

until suddenly 

we were 

at the bottom 

of a wishing well



at the world.


Copyright © 2022 by Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 31, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“This was a poem written as part of a series called ‘Seawall Soliloquies,’ which is meant to be a reflection of my work as climate envoy for the Marshall Islands. Our country is focused more on adaptation, on adapting our island to protect ourselves from the rising sea level due to climate change. As such, seawalls have, inevitably, become a part of my life—these walls that our community builds in our backyards to protect ourselves from the incoming tides.”

Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner


Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner

Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner is the author of Iep Jaltok: Poems from a Marshallese Daughter (University of Arizona Press, 2016). She is the climate envoy for the Marshall Islands, where she lives.

Date Published: 2022-05-31

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