A Marshallese mother's powerful poem to her daughter moves people to tears at UN Climate Summit

See video
Video of Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, Civil Society Representative from the Marshall Islands at the Climate Summit at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

Marshall Islands native Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner recited a poem in the form of a message to her infant daughter that won a standing ovation at the U.N. Climate Summit in New York.  An official U.N. Twitter account said some of the 120 world leaders listening to her speech were moved to tears.

The Marshall Islands, along with small island nations such as the Republic of Kiribati, are among the nations that will be most devastated by climate change. 

Here's her poem in full: 

Dear Matefele Peinam
by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner

dear matafele peinam,
you are a seven month old sunrise of gummy smiles
you are bald as an egg and bald as the buddha
you are thunder thighs and lightning shrieks
so excited for bananas, hugs and
our morning walks past the lagoon
dear matafele peinam,
I want to tell you about that lagoon
that lucid, sleepy lagoon lounging against the sunrise
some men say that one day
that lagoon will devour you
they say it will gnaw at the shoreline
chew at the roots of your breadfruit trees
gulp down rows of your seawalls
and crunch your island’s shattered bones
they say you, your daughter
and your granddaughter, too
will wander rootless
with only a passport to call home
dear matafele peinam,
don’t cry
mommy promises you
no one
will come and devour you
no greedy whale of a company sharking through
political seas
no backwater bullying of businesses with broken morals no blindfolded
bureaucracies gonna push
this mother ocean over
the edge
no one’s drowning, baby
no one’s moving
no one’s losing
their homeland
no one’s gonna become
a climate change refugee
or should i say
no one else
to the carteret islanders of papua new guinea
and to the taro islanders of Fiji
I take this moment
to apologize to you
we are drawing the line here
because baby we are going to fight
your mommy daddy
bubu jimma your country and president too
we will all fight
and even though there are those
hidden behind platinum titles
who like to pretend
that we don’t exist
that the Marshall Islands
Tuvalu
Kiribati
Maldives
and typhoon haiyan in the Philippines
and floods of Pakistan, Algeria, and Colombia
and all the hurricanes, earthquakes, and tidalwaves
didn’t exist
still
there are those
who see us
hands reaching out
fists raising up
banners unfurling
megaphones booming
and we are
canoes blocking coal ships
we are
the radiance of solar villages
we are
the rich clean soil of the farmer’s past
we are
petitions blooming from teenage fingertips
we are
families biking, recycling, reusing,
engineers dreaming, designing, building,
artists painting, dancing, writing
we are spreading the word
and there are thousands out on the street
marching with signs
hand in hand
chanting for change NOW
they’re marching for you, baby
they’re marching for us
because we deserve to do more than just
survive
we deserve
to thrive
dear matafele peinam,
you are eyes heavy
with drowsy weight
so just close those eyes, baby
and sleep in peace
because we won’t let you down
you’ll see

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