Skip to main content
Outdated Browser

For the best experience using our website, we recommend upgrading your browser to a newer version or switching to a supported browser.

More Information

Poetry

i had a country once

By Chantal T. Spitz
Translated from French by Jean Anderson
In this searing poem, Mā’ohi writer Chantal T. Spitz denounces the colonial impulses driving seasteading proposals in Tahiti.
A picture of three military helicopters flying.
Picture by Elen Schurova, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

what is striking is the orderliness
the orderliness and the space
the orderliness and the silence
the orderliness and the peace
orderliness like a mold in which everything shrinks back dies back holds back
orderliness like an insult to enfeebled atrophied abolished humanity
orderliness like something forgotten defective empty

I remember
I live on in my country as my country lives on in me
unaware of the pitiless web that is weaving itself and will soon change our way of life
unaware
like all of us
no
not unaware
but failing to understand that such a demented project could form in the human brain
such a complete absolute total wrong
that aims to submit a country to the bloodthirsty claws of a handful of predators eager to escape from any constraint that might limit their voracious appetites

the news flashes around the social networks
NoFrontiers a multinational run by the ultrarich wants to build floating islands in international waters where they will be free from any form of government from any known human regulation so they may construct a new mode of governance where the rules would be set by the richest and therefore strongest

within the country time continues to tick by in an illusory indifference
no one feels concerned about these powerful people with their libertarian aims
everyone is caught up in their own torment no hope is dawning

the inequalities that unbalance our society are far more serious than the fanciful plans of some gang of ultraliberals trying to found a new era
more than half the population below the poverty level
runaway increases in school dropouts and illiteracy
multiple addiction problems alcohol sugar drugs violence gambling
massive unemployment
plump-bellied rich people swollen-bellied poor people
physical violence sexual violence against women and children
morbid obesity cancers diabetes cardiovascular disease rocketing upward
displacement of populations
the consequences of thirty years of nuclear tinkering by the invader State
suddenly everything speeds up
the excessive depths of the sea floor will not allow the Project to be carried out in international waters
parts of the country’s lagoons are selected by NoFrontiers
the government endorses the seizure of public spaces for a second disaster
protection from rising sea levels technological innovation renewable energy economic development guaranteed jobs these are the advantages dangled as bait to make everything look good and to ensnare the minds of those aspiring to economic benefit

a resistance movement arises
the electoral campaign to reshape the composition of the Assembly begins
opposition to the NoFrontiers Project is one of the key themes of the Independentists who’ve been trying for decades to free themselves from the yoke of colonialism
the Project is suspended until after the campaign
NoFrontiers does not cease its activities
seminars throughout the Western world allow it to interest more and more investors who dream of governance and of profits beyond the reach of international regulations in one of the planet’s most beautiful lagoons

the elections put the Independentists in the driver’s seat
power slips from the grasp of the Autonomists who favor the colonizers’ presence
the dream is over for the investors
the floating islands will not be built in the country’s lagoons as the process for moving to independence begins

I remember
I live on in my country as my country lives on in me
NoFrontiers and the Autonomists set up demonstrations hostile to independence strikes paralyze the country’s economy
shortages swell misery fattens violence erupts
the invader State the upholder of respect of legality allows this poisonous situation
there is talk of confidential meetings between representatives of the three parties
the most outrageous rumors dance from one end of the island to the other
suspicion hostility divisiveness stagnate the country as it crumbles apart

behind my country lurks the ultraliberal ogre
financial interests with infinite greed that have for decades stripped bare democracy and its defenders around the world where there are riches to pillage establish dictatorship and its tyrants all over the world where there are fortunes to be harvested

and in this pacific country smoldering anger ferments
workers’ unions call for widespread action against the state and its lackeys
port paralyzed airport shut down electricity supply cut off banks occupied
confrontations that overwhelm the forces of order and threaten to turn into civil war

the invader State passive till now decides to reestablish its rights
through sudden repression legitimate violence cold brutality
a continuous flow of riot police is landed at Faratea
a would-be noisy port unfinished like many government projects
under the protection of squadrons of gendarmes and brigades of local customs officials
backed up by tanks
their orders are formal
to disperse the stubborn crowds strangling the country and threatening the State’s universal reach that needs reinforcing
to neutralize the leaders the agitators the dangerous individuals to crush the movement of popular revolt

all kinds of arms are used
grenades rain down
dispersal grenades blast grenades
grenades that deafen and burst the eardrums
grenades that the invader is the only European state to use in crowd control operations
riot guns single action multi-action semi-automatics with pump-action mechanisms
firing point blank mutilating tearing away feet and hands breaking limbs gouging out eyes
brigades of motorcycle police disguised by helmets and hoods armed with riot guns mortally wounding people in the crowd at random to terrorize them high pressure water cannon to break up gatherings

these reluctant resistors are reliving the colonial invasion of the past
wars of submission that ravaged humans animals nature in order to seize a free country
these new rebels seek cover in the valleys and the mountains
hunting rifles revolvers and smuggled guns
but for several generations now they have denied their ancestors who stood up to invasion their courage diluted the mountain pathways unlearned the gestures of survival forgotten to wallow instead in debilitating comforts
they no longer recognize their country and its generous gifts and begin to run short of supplies

attacks by murderous companies helicopters soldiers history stumbles and loses the plot
ludicrous resistance of a people grown fat on all-devouring consumerism

wounds mutilations deaths
arbitrary arrests
prison camps
hidden secrets
torture people mutter
calm is reestablished in a few weeks
enduring curfew
bans on meeting on traveling
bullets firing boots marching terror screaming
phone lines internet connections cut
the country hunkers down in desolation shock darkness
the country sinks into reclusion enclosure isolation
the country stays silent lays low hides away

my country is like all those countries
whose only advantage is their modest size and their distance from continents
easy prey for the great predators
the invader State has signed a contract with NoFrontiers
ceding the main island and keeping the rest of the country
a generous swath of ocean sprinkled with welcoming islands
this will authorize it to maintain its claim as the world’s second greatest naval power
this will allow it to exploit the rare minerals that abound beneath its seas

NoFrontiers takes possession of my island country and sets up a new system of government there
free from any human regulation free to found the new order in which the richest-strongest dictate the law

the invader State has repatriated its expatriates from the other side of the planet
some are now settled on the far-off high-skied island
many of our people have fled the confrontations
armada of canoes boats surfboards
crossing the ocean to reach the nearby island

we are the survivors of an additional seizure of territory
NoFrontiers reigns absolute over the new world
sprung over the course of a few years from gangrened imaginations

and beneath the new sci-fi city lie rotting the ruins and corpses of olden days

we have disappeared from our country
parked in settlement camps surrounded by electric fences overflown by surveillance drones
passes required to leave our enclosure and go serve the new masters
slaves imprisoned on our own land
a flourishing wall of greenery preventing any contact with strangers and eradicating us from
the world of the living

some people are treated better than us
individual houses special food personal trainers
it is rumored that in the beautiful brand-new hospital
where the very richest land in their spectacular jets
buying years of extra life thanks to organs taken from the specially treated
sometimes while they are still alive
the organs removed must be perfect

what is striking is the orderliness
the orderliness and the space
the orderliness and the silence
the orderliness and the peace
orderliness like a mold within which everything shrinks back dies back holds back
orderliness like an insult to humanity enfeebled atrophied abolished
orderliness like something forgotten defective empty

I remember
I had a country once

“j’eus un pays” © Chantal T. Spitz. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2024 by Jean Anderson. All rights reserved.

English

what is striking is the orderliness
the orderliness and the space
the orderliness and the silence
the orderliness and the peace
orderliness like a mold in which everything shrinks back dies back holds back
orderliness like an insult to enfeebled atrophied abolished humanity
orderliness like something forgotten defective empty

I remember
I live on in my country as my country lives on in me
unaware of the pitiless web that is weaving itself and will soon change our way of life
unaware
like all of us
no
not unaware
but failing to understand that such a demented project could form in the human brain
such a complete absolute total wrong
that aims to submit a country to the bloodthirsty claws of a handful of predators eager to escape from any constraint that might limit their voracious appetites

the news flashes around the social networks
NoFrontiers a multinational run by the ultrarich wants to build floating islands in international waters where they will be free from any form of government from any known human regulation so they may construct a new mode of governance where the rules would be set by the richest and therefore strongest

within the country time continues to tick by in an illusory indifference
no one feels concerned about these powerful people with their libertarian aims
everyone is caught up in their own torment no hope is dawning

the inequalities that unbalance our society are far more serious than the fanciful plans of some gang of ultraliberals trying to found a new era
more than half the population below the poverty level
runaway increases in school dropouts and illiteracy
multiple addiction problems alcohol sugar drugs violence gambling
massive unemployment
plump-bellied rich people swollen-bellied poor people
physical violence sexual violence against women and children
morbid obesity cancers diabetes cardiovascular disease rocketing upward
displacement of populations
the consequences of thirty years of nuclear tinkering by the invader State
suddenly everything speeds up
the excessive depths of the sea floor will not allow the Project to be carried out in international waters
parts of the country’s lagoons are selected by NoFrontiers
the government endorses the seizure of public spaces for a second disaster
protection from rising sea levels technological innovation renewable energy economic development guaranteed jobs these are the advantages dangled as bait to make everything look good and to ensnare the minds of those aspiring to economic benefit

a resistance movement arises
the electoral campaign to reshape the composition of the Assembly begins
opposition to the NoFrontiers Project is one of the key themes of the Independentists who’ve been trying for decades to free themselves from the yoke of colonialism
the Project is suspended until after the campaign
NoFrontiers does not cease its activities
seminars throughout the Western world allow it to interest more and more investors who dream of governance and of profits beyond the reach of international regulations in one of the planet’s most beautiful lagoons

the elections put the Independentists in the driver’s seat
power slips from the grasp of the Autonomists who favor the colonizers’ presence
the dream is over for the investors
the floating islands will not be built in the country’s lagoons as the process for moving to independence begins

I remember
I live on in my country as my country lives on in me
NoFrontiers and the Autonomists set up demonstrations hostile to independence strikes paralyze the country’s economy
shortages swell misery fattens violence erupts
the invader State the upholder of respect of legality allows this poisonous situation
there is talk of confidential meetings between representatives of the three parties
the most outrageous rumors dance from one end of the island to the other
suspicion hostility divisiveness stagnate the country as it crumbles apart

behind my country lurks the ultraliberal ogre
financial interests with infinite greed that have for decades stripped bare democracy and its defenders around the world where there are riches to pillage establish dictatorship and its tyrants all over the world where there are fortunes to be harvested

and in this pacific country smoldering anger ferments
workers’ unions call for widespread action against the state and its lackeys
port paralyzed airport shut down electricity supply cut off banks occupied
confrontations that overwhelm the forces of order and threaten to turn into civil war

the invader State passive till now decides to reestablish its rights
through sudden repression legitimate violence cold brutality
a continuous flow of riot police is landed at Faratea
a would-be noisy port unfinished like many government projects
under the protection of squadrons of gendarmes and brigades of local customs officials
backed up by tanks
their orders are formal
to disperse the stubborn crowds strangling the country and threatening the State’s universal reach that needs reinforcing
to neutralize the leaders the agitators the dangerous individuals to crush the movement of popular revolt

all kinds of arms are used
grenades rain down
dispersal grenades blast grenades
grenades that deafen and burst the eardrums
grenades that the invader is the only European state to use in crowd control operations
riot guns single action multi-action semi-automatics with pump-action mechanisms
firing point blank mutilating tearing away feet and hands breaking limbs gouging out eyes
brigades of motorcycle police disguised by helmets and hoods armed with riot guns mortally wounding people in the crowd at random to terrorize them high pressure water cannon to break up gatherings

these reluctant resistors are reliving the colonial invasion of the past
wars of submission that ravaged humans animals nature in order to seize a free country
these new rebels seek cover in the valleys and the mountains
hunting rifles revolvers and smuggled guns
but for several generations now they have denied their ancestors who stood up to invasion their courage diluted the mountain pathways unlearned the gestures of survival forgotten to wallow instead in debilitating comforts
they no longer recognize their country and its generous gifts and begin to run short of supplies

attacks by murderous companies helicopters soldiers history stumbles and loses the plot
ludicrous resistance of a people grown fat on all-devouring consumerism

wounds mutilations deaths
arbitrary arrests
prison camps
hidden secrets
torture people mutter
calm is reestablished in a few weeks
enduring curfew
bans on meeting on traveling
bullets firing boots marching terror screaming
phone lines internet connections cut
the country hunkers down in desolation shock darkness
the country sinks into reclusion enclosure isolation
the country stays silent lays low hides away

my country is like all those countries
whose only advantage is their modest size and their distance from continents
easy prey for the great predators
the invader State has signed a contract with NoFrontiers
ceding the main island and keeping the rest of the country
a generous swath of ocean sprinkled with welcoming islands
this will authorize it to maintain its claim as the world’s second greatest naval power
this will allow it to exploit the rare minerals that abound beneath its seas

NoFrontiers takes possession of my island country and sets up a new system of government there
free from any human regulation free to found the new order in which the richest-strongest dictate the law

the invader State has repatriated its expatriates from the other side of the planet
some are now settled on the far-off high-skied island
many of our people have fled the confrontations
armada of canoes boats surfboards
crossing the ocean to reach the nearby island

we are the survivors of an additional seizure of territory
NoFrontiers reigns absolute over the new world
sprung over the course of a few years from gangrened imaginations

and beneath the new sci-fi city lie rotting the ruins and corpses of olden days

we have disappeared from our country
parked in settlement camps surrounded by electric fences overflown by surveillance drones
passes required to leave our enclosure and go serve the new masters
slaves imprisoned on our own land
a flourishing wall of greenery preventing any contact with strangers and eradicating us from
the world of the living

some people are treated better than us
individual houses special food personal trainers
it is rumored that in the beautiful brand-new hospital
where the very richest land in their spectacular jets
buying years of extra life thanks to organs taken from the specially treated
sometimes while they are still alive
the organs removed must be perfect

what is striking is the orderliness
the orderliness and the space
the orderliness and the silence
the orderliness and the peace
orderliness like a mold within which everything shrinks back dies back holds back
orderliness like an insult to humanity enfeebled atrophied abolished
orderliness like something forgotten defective empty

I remember
I had a country once

Read Next

Picture of Moorea's mountains and sea.