Page last updated at 11:45 GMT, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 12:45 UK

After the tsunami: poems from the Pacific

Photo: Joey Cummings
Debris in Pago Pago following the tsunami

In an extra-ordinary reaction to the tsunami that struck Samoa and surrounding islands a group of poets, artists and Pacific Islanders have begun to weave a poem to express their sorrow, loss and grief.

The poem began after writer Sia Figiel sent her reflections on the day's traumatic events to the BBC website. Like many others living in American Samoa, Sia and her children fled to the mountains as the tsunami hit their island.

She later shared her reflections to the BBC with family and friends. Some of those close to her responded by turning her words into poetry and adding verses of their own. The result is the poem below, the work of a community affected by a tragedy.

The evening bells have just rung for evening prayer.

Our prayer tonight is

that of gratitude

that our family and neighbours are safe.

But our hearts

are with those families

who can not say the same,

who will sleep tonight

without a son,

a daughter,

a mother,

a father,

an uncle,

an aunt,

a cousin,

a grandmother,

a grandfather.

Their loss is our loss.

Even the night birds feel it...

~ Sia Figiel

How right you are. I love the way you articulated it....and so I write for you:

...Even the night birds feel it

your words

swim the sky

and through

red feather clouds

and blood tears

I know that we are


even in our disconnectedness

of space...

~ CF Koya

To continue the prayer-poetry chain, I take your last lines and invite others to continue in prayer:

...even in our disconnectedness

of space

the whole of Samoa is on its knees

Samoa in Aotearoa

Samoa in Fiji

Samoa in Amerika

Samoa in Hawai'i

praying and

swallowing salt tears

swallowing time

shoes and soles of feet

swallowing bones and lives and sheet

memories of the day before Wednesday

swallowing distance and space

swallowing our sea memories

to taste this pain

that is ours...

~ Selina T. Marsh

I've added my part to the weaving, it follows Sia and the others, taking the pattern of repeating the last line of the previous poem...

... to taste this pain that is ours

To remember one's heart is there

On that day in September

At the earliest hour

They watched the sea disappear

The bay empty like a valley

The sea rush back in a moan

Took the weaver from her fale

Took the child from warm arms

Took the elder from his family

Took the sleeper from her sleep

The blue deep, deep moana

There at the sacred heart of us

That echoes through each of us

When the panic madness falls

And the calm tide breathes

With all Samoa everywhere

With all of Tonga too

Remember your hearts there

And my heart too...

~ Dan Taulapapa McMullin

...And my heart too,

along with yours.

We are reminded

in the most brutal way

that we are all connected.

We are reminded

in the most brutal way,

that our relationship

with the ocean

is never

on our

own terms.

We are reminded

in the most brutal way

why dominion over nature

was never a part

of our epistemology.

We are reminded

in the most brutal way

why we know ourselves to be

simply a part

of a sacred continuum

of sacred relationships

where even

the ocean is alive,

where even

the night birds feel,

where even

the rocks have spirit,

where even

the blood red clouds

know why they are red.

We are reminded

in the most brutal way

the balance of life between

is sacred, va tapuia,

endlessly interconnected

across distance, space, time, species, life, death.

We are reminded

in the most brutal way

why long before

Christ arrived

on these shores

we have always been

a people of spirit

a people of faith...

~ Karlo Mila

...A people of faith

A people

A people of

A people of faith

Faavae i Le Atua Samoa

They said,

God will protect us,

They said.

Samoa is founded on God.

O children of the great and mighty Fofoaivaoese

Those of us who watch, and listen

from the great watery expanse of all the corners of the earth

Hear Samoa's cry.

Fofoaivaoese will not desert you Samoa

For even now the groundswell of love, support and prayers

Wave after wave after wave will crash on the very same tear-filled shores

which tore our worlds asunder that fateful day

And will overcome, embrace and lift up our people, our aiga, our villages...our Samoa,

from despair and devastation.

Do not grieve Samoa,

Outou, matou, tatou...

With one hand we will hold on to the ancient words and wisdom of our ancestors

And with the other we will grasp the almighty power of Le Atua

As we people of faith

Calmly but what we have to do


Do what

Do what we

Have to do

To remain...

People of faith.

We are people of the Vao ese

We are here, watching, listening

And waiting...

~ Melani Anae

...We are here, watching, listening

And waiting

Waiting for the sun to lick our wounds dry

Waiting for the breeze to untie the knotted memory

Left, swept in by Moana

Aueeee, our fathers cry

Aueee, our mothers cry

Auee, our children cry

Aue, we all cry

We cry salted tears

We cry silent fear

We cry mournful alofa

For our people

We cry, Aue! We cry!

~ Allan Alo

We cry, Aue! We cry!

The strongest of the strong cry

Through the push and pull of the tides

And waves of pain and agony

that crash against the shore of our wounded hearts

we cry, Aue...

We cry

We cry tears of blood

that flow deep through the sea of sorrow

flow with the whispers of our soft prayers ascending above the clouds

and settle beyond the depths of our soul

It is there

that our tears have dried

dried into a grain of salt

a grain of salt called faith,

the one thing we continue to hold on to

for faith, isn't faith

until it is all that we have left to hold on to

it is what will wipe the tears of the strongest cry

give us comfort in the night

allow the warm rays of the sun to brush upon our skin

push and pull the greatest memories of love with that of the tides

heal the waves of wounded hearts

lost in the sea of sorrow

dry our tears

and carry us into tomorrow...

~ Christina Pelesasa

…and carry us into tomorrow

carry us into tomorrow

carry us until we regain our balance

until there are no more tears

to cry.

The driest of eyes keep weary watch

but there's no blood in the ocean tonight

just the same steady colour seeping into the sky

blurred horizons proffer

few answers.

There's a missing deeper than moana

a grieving hope that knows no end

for moana won't explain yesterday

leaving us suspended in

the now...

~ Kylie Jayne

...The now calm and perfect seas do not answer me

When I ask why you have taken my loved ones

To never return

You, earth beneath the oceans, do not answer me

When I ask why, you sneezed, and caused the sea to


And release her power on my helpless people

Did you sky, issue a warning in your many colours

And I did not know

Did you birds try to tell me, in your cries and flying patterns

And I could not read it

Did you waves and trees try to tell me

That the earth was about to move

And I could not hear nor see your message




~ Tepora Afamasaga

Aueeee! Aue!

I moan.


Yesterday I read a list of loved ones.

Lost to Moana.


I listened to my niece's fast-paced breathing on the phone.

She gave me names of friends.

I searched for them.

Today, I cried.


Today I softly let go.

~ Vivian Koster

"Let go, let go" he whispered

But he couldn't really mean it

and reached out to hold them as well,

his children, his life.

One was dead with sand in his eyes

One was alive with death in her gaze

holding her little brother close to her heart,

for ever and ever.

~ Emma Kruse Vaai

Cry now loved ones

Let the salty tears

Kiss and mix with the receding brine

And in the healing kiss

In the warming embrace

Let us realize

In the eternal voyage

That we were connected

Now brutally disconnected

But we will be reconnected

Stronger than the pillars of lagi

Wider than the expanses of moana

In the peaceful vanua beyond the horizon

A stronger whole

Forever glued in deep love

That was never really shattered

And cannot be washed away


~ Teweiariki Teaero

...Again, and again,

I ask myself, what made you so mad Moana?

What happened there?

Was it because you'd had enough?

What caused you to lose your temper, your mind, your sanity?

Again, and again,

I ask myself, what made you so mad Moana?

~ Vilsoni Hereniko

Again and again I asked myself

what made you so mad Moana.

Moanawe ask for your forgiveness

Ioe we have failed to recognize your

mighty presence.

In our busy lives we have failed to take care

of you and Laueleele.

We have not taken the time to share the stories

of Tagaloalagi and our ancestors with our children

and grandchildren.

Moana you have once again reminded your

people that our lives are intertwined with yours.

~ Sivai Folausaua Bennett

We cry, Aue! We cry!

the day after

on bended knees

winded by the heavy losses

overwhelmed with deep grief

our dark souls in the bright daylight

sorrowing by the empty fale

destruction ruins and debris

we cry, aue ... we cry

the days after

the day after

back on our feet again

surrounded by the songs of life

supported by the strength of Samoa

our clear minds under the shining moon

listen to the sea breeze

echoing love from all over Oceania

our distress feels lighter

years after

the day after

we are still here


~ Te Moana Nui a Hiva

From whom we were born human beings


by our ancestors

our sons

from whom we were born sons and ancestors

and inside us


our land

our people

our memories.

~ Chantal T. Spitz

'O le 'upu faÿamäfanafana

(for my sacred people of Sämoa)

Sämoa, our sacred centre


reverberations that force

precious Moananuiäkea to

react, pull back

resounding echoes of

chaotic vibrations

tamaiti terrified,


echoes of pule


air, land, moanasausau,


Uncle Tana said

it was like

a tornado in the sea

turning, churning,

unnaturally building

high towards le lagi

gravity jolting destruction

cadence disruption

proverbial stone of

gladiator proportions

could be felt here in Hawaiÿi

forces of our Gods

painfully piercing my naÿau

panic unbridled soon ensued

did my family get swept out to sea?

our women, our children,

our men, our land…devastated…

this week has been surreal…

going about my daily life

surrounded by

an unseen, eerie haze

numb, mourning…

pre-occupied with worry

shared images

of the aftermath

my students are

shocked and uneasy

silence you can cut with a pelu

this disaster

has put a human face

to my father's people

our land is

no mere dot on a map

it is living, breathing…Sä…moa

far across Moananuiäkea

ma ka pae ÿäina o Hawaiÿi

amongst the chaos

raging within me

reach deep

for an unwielding calm

a silence that brings me

back to my center

strong and resilient

ever vigilant

like the ageless cycle

of Tagaloa

we will set and rise

with a light of hope

one that will

comfort our people

ÿua agi mälie le matagi…

~ Lufi A. Matäÿafa Luteru

'Ara'ara Huahine

Our people, God's minister

Our memories, God's children

The wave was a way

Of saying "Don't ignore me"

Our people, a surfer

Our memories, a waiter

The sea was sucked under

Below the reef

Our people, a teddy

Our memories, a ute

Let's say hello to strangers

on the beach

Our people, the telephone

Our memories, the body

Then, late in the day,

a cold front sweeps

~ Teresia Teaiwa

Reaching out from afar

I wish I could do more

For places I recognise

People I know

Hands across oceans

The grip is tightened

~ Ian Conrich

Are you from the area affected by the tsunami? Do you have a verse you would like to add to the poem?

If so, send them to us using the form below and we will publish a selection.

Your E-mail address
Town & Country
Phone number (optional):

The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.

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