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  • Grace Fakahau

For My Grandfather’s Stories

Words by Grace Fakahau (she/her)

As the stars twinkle in the night sky, they twinkle like us, the grandchildren in my grandparents’ eyes.

As the sun rises and the sky light sweeps the darkness of the night away, I rise too, in my grandparents' home.

As the pan of eggs seethes and toast jumps up from the toaster’s heat, I jump to the large breakfast table and prepare for my grandfather’s prayer.

As the food is passed down the table for breakfast, I am not only eager for the arrival of the food, but also for my grandfather's stories.

My grandfather, who sailed the sea in the 1990s, tells me about my Pacific heritage.

He tells me about the days he climbed up the coconut trees,

the peaceful Sunday mornings at church with young children belting hymns from their little


the warm sun that shines through the sky and pigments his skin,

the days he spent swimming swiftly through the clear waves at the beach with my family,

the days of hard yards, learning cultural dances and performing them to his village,

the days of showering in the rain while the warmth of the sun beams onto him,

the days of riding his children to school on the back of his motorbike,

he wants me to relive those days and experience the joy in my motherland: island joy,

just as he had in my homeland.

He awaits the day I head to the home I have never been to,

the day where he can give me a tour of his village,

the village that lights up at night from the full moon and stars sparkling in the night sky.

He awaits the day we head to the friendly islands together.

But how long does he have to wait before my island finds itself underwater?

To find my island sunk?

To find my people evacuated?

To find my land gone?

How long do I have left until I find my island under the sea?

How long do I have left to bury my elders in their homelands?

How long until it’s too late?

History has been erased by the creation of a friendly yellow sponge.

‘Bikini Bottom’ is what they call my long-lost friend, Bikini Atoll.

But like the sole on the bottom of one's shoe,

we are stood on by the world.

We’re forgotten, because apparently, we depend on the rest of the world.

We are called leeches,

sucking the resources from the developed countries around us,

sucking their economy from the land—the land in which they stole,

sucking their pockets dry,


They say we depend too much, so we suck.

My history fades as they parade on my stage.

But they need to see that we are the ones who aid.

We are the market for their ‘stuff’.

We are the origins of their economy.

We grew their agriculture.

We lost our land and culture to grow theirs.

If anyone is dependent, it’s them.

They are the leech,

depending on my islands for an Instagram picture at a beach,

depending on my islands to book their tropical holiday homes,

they contribute to my islands sinking through climate change alone.

We are exploited.

My Pacific islands face the effects of climate change today.

The flooding, the rain, and storm surges increase as the floods of people at church on a Sunday morning decrease.

The vibrant worshipping voices that steam up the warm Sunday mornings are now silent as they await the storm to pass and the sea to calm.

The land that is my own home now belongs to the sea.

My islands continue to sink into the sea as the developed government continues to sink into its caucus bench.

The sea will rise, and my islands will sink, my ancestor's lands will soon become extinct unless the government of this so-called developed nation acts on its proposed climate emergency.

Will I even be able to visit my islands, a home where my ancestors lay, and my people pray?

Pray for the water to keep from rising and sinking my islands.

Pray, for the very water that connects my islands, will sink my islands.

Tonga, I fear losing her.

This climate crisis is more than just the trees falling and the sea rising.

It is the children laughing and giggling to each other as they walk through the floods up to

their waistline, holding bags of fruit above their heads.

It is the father who holds his son as he prays before the cyclone hits their village.

It is the food that’s given out for the price of love.

It is the churches where the village sleeps during the storm as one big family.

These actions of resilience are mistaken as a sign that we’re okay.

As my ancestors above look over me, they ask why I am crying.

They ask why their islands are dying.

I try to explain this climate crisis as a whole,

but I’m focusing below, as I tulou between their headstones, sinking.

As my voice breaks to save my islands, my ancestors ache as they sink into the dirty sea in silence.

I will fight to save them. I will fight to save the Pacific.

For my ancestors who sailed the Moana, who were raided in their homes and on the streets, hoping for a lifestyle filled with endless opportunities for me, I raise my voice.

For my islands where my family lives and ancestors are buried, sea levels rise as my land sinks in a hurry, I raise my voice.

For my islands that you book for your ‘tropical’ holiday yet ignore the effects of this climate change sinking us, I raise my voice.

For my brown, Tongan, minority raised, child of immigrant parents, Salvation Army, Good Will, holey socks and shoes self, I raise my voice.

For my ancestors, for my islands, for the hood.

I raise my voice for my grandfather's stories.


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