My people sent me a canoe

    Dorian, September 6, 2019

Last night my people sent me a yellow canoe
floating gently into my dreams.
Flash flood of flash floods, brooks surge into rivulets,
rivers tear down trees, waves crest the windowsill,
water splinters glass. 
My arms shoot out for my babies,
all grown by day, but in my dreams, time
winds back, their quivering bodies hover near mine, 
We look for escape routes through one window.
Flooded to our necks, we see the rescue vessel

How to fold a canoe
Fold in half, sides to center,
accordion fold. Corners to wrong side.
Fold in half, open to find gold. Fold tiny corners.
Unfold, push in penny to reverse fold.
A fold in time compresses 2000 years
Racing from Abaco and Grand Bahama 
to Nova Scotia, Storm Dorian makes ruins
of “The Mudd.” Year 500, Taíno people find refuge in the Bahamas.
Year 1492, columbus lands, commits genocide. 
Year 1807, enslaved people flee, find refuge in the Bahamas.
Seminoles flee U.S. Army, find refuge in the Bahamas.1Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan, “Climate Colonialism: The Picture of Dorian’s Graves,” Democracy Now!, September 5, 2019.
Tourists seek escape from colonial life, find refuge in the Bahamas
Year 2019, Haitian immigrants find refuge in “The Mudd.”
People…trade…risk…for a place to live.2David O. Prevatt, Jason von Meding, and Ksenia Chmutina, “Risk Rooted in Colonial Era Weighs on Bahamas’ Efforts to Rebuild after Hurricane Dorian,” The Conversation. Accessed June 28, 2020.

“Disasters are not natural,” von Meding says.3Robyn Williams, “Disasters Are Not Natural,” ABC Radio National, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, August 8, 2018.
Disaster is designed into the homes
of vulnerable people.
We settlers, safely inland, learn to design disaster
for vulnerable people, building into their homes
“accumulated risk.”

Fold up sides, float canoe. Burn canoe to send
to your ancestors. Fold another for Black lives.
Whisper, enough is enough,
a prayer to disrupt unnatural disaster

1000 Gifts of Decolonial Love4Respectfully honoring Leanne Betamosake Simpson’s creation, Islands of Decolonial Love: Stories & Songs and Juno Diaz’s “decolonial imagination”.

Movement 1: Paper Cranes Instructional

To prepare for funerals, we fold
paper            gold.
To prepare for eating peanuts, Dad folds
paper boxes for holding shells; Mom folds
paper cups for holding water.

Chih chóa is how we say “paper folding”
in hokkien. We fold useful things,
sacred things—
paper cups, paper gold.
Now we fold cranes to remember.

First four folds—mountain and valley—
edge to edge, corner to corner, fold
memory into paper, unflatten field
to open another dimension.

Precarity held in paper form. We
fold 1000 for a wish,
to remember and honor hibakusha,
survivors of atomic radiation.
We fold to honor islanders everywhere, drowning,
existence endangered, like 11 of 15 crane families.

Next bring valley to valley, reverse–fold a diamond,
like the cranes’ migratory formation,
open end facing your heart.
Kite fold, like diaper fold, wings to center.
Flip over, repeat.
Caress the folds, score creases with thumbnail.
From this side of the ocean, across miles
of mountains and valleys I fold, unfold,
refold, shrink the distance between my home
on Turtle Island and Tâi oân, my bornplace,
between the Japanese empire and occupied Taiwan,
an island someone once called “mudball in the sea”.5Keliher, Macabe, and Yonghe Yu. Out of China or Yu Yonghe’s Tale of Formosa: A History of Seventeenth-Century Taiwan. SMC Publishing Inc, 2004.
Mom called it a speck, a booger picked
from the flaring nostril of China.

Now fold down a hat, like the bamboo farmer’s hat my
grandfather wore in the peanut fields.
Unfold. Flip over, repeat.

Petal fold— like a rosebud blooming, move slow
as drifting clouds…unfold wings, bend back,
gently nudge apart an opening, spread
wide like lips rounding to catch
a drop of rain. Caress edges. Flip over. Repeat.

Black–tipped, wide-spread wings
Spread wings like the lost Siberian crane
that landed in Huang Cheng–chun’s field
one lazy June6“Rare Crane a Boost to Taiwan’s Troubled Wetlands.” Phys.Org, Accessed August 28, 2016. day, first sighting ever
in Taiwan. The farmer named his rice in honor
of his new, snail–eating friend— “Jin Ho.”

Morning qigong, “spread wings to fly”
cranes majestic celebrity withers
in its too–warm wetlands. Near the Caspian Sea
guardians name a lone survivor Omid, “hope”
in Farsi. How many folds to make a crane?
How many folded cranes make a prayer?
How many prayers become wisdom
of our grandmothers, great–grandmothers?7Lisa Pourlak, “The Call of the Lonely Crane,” International Crane Foundation (blog). February 8, 2017,

Find the legs, prime the point, fold edges of legs
towards the centerline, leaving a margin for layers.
Every fold multiplies layers, thickens the story.
This fold times four, then open each side.
Finger moves with paper, rhythms flow
from one era to the next, like language
from mother’s tongue to baby’s ear,
like8Thiongo, Ngugi wa. Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature. J. Currey; Heinemann, 1986. shepherds’ knots accounting for sheep
bleating in green fields.

How many post–invasion years, decades
to revive generations of wisdom culture?
How to dream in a lost language,
how to rescue lifeways and ceremony erased
by colonizers? We enfold the colonizer’s art
the master’s’ tools.9Audre Lorde. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Crossing Press, 1984. They may never dismantle
his house, but could this technology bring to life
another kind of home?
Animal home, floral, fungal, spirit home?

Raise the legs, reverse fold into neck and tail. Each reverse
fold makes slim, symmetrical extensions; you choose
which will be the head.

Fold, unfold, refold a prayer for the
Siberian crane, the most critically endangered
of 11 sister cranes, pushed closer to extinction
every warming year
their marshy homes drained for farming,
their existence made more precarious by the rising heat
of our extractive habits, by our insatiable pumps sucking
black gold out of sacred soil,
and water—the bluest gold—from our earthly commons.

Last fold makes a beak, sounds the alert call.
Imagined empires break apart clans, families,
economies of conquest, erect walls between communities,
interrupt intergenerational bonds,
sever storylines carried by our grandmothers,
And we resist, we fold, we hold onto
ancestral memory, manual memory, muscle knowledge,
plant medicine, animal relations, interbeing, sun–moon,
yin yang cycles, always moving like salty waves, falling
rising, folding–unfolding into infinite timelessness,
Folding a beak is an act of resistance,
a reversal of space and time.
We can make flesh of cultural memory, and release
a revolutionary chorus of all beings.

Movement 2: Elegy

September 11. Again. We count the days, the years since.
One, two, three, 10, 15 years since 2001.
Sadako’s mother counts
One, two, three years, 7 decades plus one year, 1 month and 6 days
after the so–called “Little Boy” bomb was dropped,
blew her daughter out the window. 71 years after
she believed Sadako would survive unharmed.

September 11. I drive north, making a great escape,
slow flight from the home that was never my dream,
Daydreams interrupted by insistent radio reports,
tolling bells, names, reports of that morning 15 years ago
when Homeland Security replaced the american dream,
the dream that lured my family to settle on Turtle Island,
to settle in the land of the wild onion
ancestral lands of the nations of The Three Fires,
the Potawatami, Ottawa and Chippewa.10Naperville Heritage Society Research Library and Archive Staff. Black Hawk War: Naperville Heritage Society History Stories. Naperville Heritage Society and Naper Settlement, 2012.

My hands hold still, grasp the wheel, fingers still
folding, unfolding the 151st crane.
1 paper crane, 2 paper crane, 3 paper crane, fold.
Corner to corner, unfold, reverse. Her name
slips through memory as fingers gently pry
open petal fold. Sadako. Settled into muscle
memory 1000 times, this sequence, passed on from one hand
to another, one generation to the next in creases,
unfolding, folding, telling, retelling.

She survived 1 year, 2 years, 10 years after
the mushroom clouded over her innocent years.
And then the blisters broke. In hospital, she learned
the legend of paper cranes. 1000 for the gift of one
longer life. Now thousands fold cranes for peace.
I wake up dreaming of Sadako’s mother.
Searching for her daughter, making slow flight
from ground zero, her brave arms snatch her tiny daughter,
running from the ghost of the mushrooming cloud. Surviving.

Did she see her baby’s small body fly
through the window? Did her heart pause,
Breath reverse when they passed the safety zone,
skin unburnt, pinkish still, Alive?
Did she hold in a sigh of relief every morning
Sadako awoke and smiled and walked to school?
And did a small fissure in her heart shelter the truth,
every day since August 6, the truth she kept from Sadako,
hoping to shield her daughter from the pain that would end
her short, but not small, life.

How did her mother count the days? how many cranes
did she fold, each crane a dance against death,
a knot in the string of days she survived as hibakusha.
I fold in memory of hibakusha, in praise of survivors
who warn us of our own extinction. I fold for the living
Siberian crane whose defense call heralds loss
of her homeland, my homeland, land of the Pepo Tribe of
Hoanya,11Chiayi County Government, “Development of the Aboriginal Area”, 2016 Accessed October 6, 2018. “fully assimilated” a euphemism for
genocide, linguicide. Stones to protect
Hoanya land erected by Emperor Kanhsi still
stand on the ridge of Taipingshan (today), marking
“them” from “us.”

Can we make peace across these stones? Care
for each others’ babies and grandmothers, Indigenous and
settler? Human and crane, snail, fish, fungi, cloud, moon, sun?
Let’s bury the weapons of mass destruction
and fold cranes, 1000 cranes for peace, millions for uncountable
seasons, cycles of life and death and life again.

I fold for Orchid Island, southeast of Taiwan,
Yami home turned nuclear dump site
Honshu Island, where the bomb known as ”Little Boy”
instantly decimated 80,000 human lives
(How many red-crowned cranes? How many snails?)
I fold for Bikini Atoll forever scarred by US nuclear weapons testing
Pu’uloa, Oahu, renamed Pearl Harbor by US occupiers
Turtle Island where indigenous resurgence sings of decolonial love I fold 1000 for Black Lives
1000 for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls
1000 in honor of Arab Spring
1000 for water protectors, earth protectors at Oceti Sakowin,
I fold for our children, for water, for life
and call us to rise up, spread wings and fly

For whom do you fold?


When the coronavirus pandemic entered our lives and bodies, I was preparing to travel to my birthplace and ancestors’ home in Taiwan. Well–laid plans dissolved, and I found myself sheltering–in with my younger son, Mica, whose plans to return to college were disrupted. Like everyone else I knew, I really struggled to stay engaged with work and with my dissertation proposal. When no sensible words would flow from my keyboard, I put pen to paper and wrote poetry. What carried me through was opportunities to share my poetry and my art. The poems published in this issue were written before the pandemic (1000 Gifts of Decolonial Love was begun 3 years ago), in another moment of awakening to the existential crisis that is climate change, petrocapitalism and colonialism whipped together into a formula for extinguishing our own species, along with countless other living beings. But the pandemic and the confluence of eco– and social–justice crises of the last few months opened a space for critical reflection and a deeper awakening that transformed how I approached my creative work. Each morning as I took my dog outside with me and practiced qigong, I would hear a question rise up through my body. “What do I need to learn to be a good ancestor for my future kin?” And this question directed me to examine my disconnection from my own ancestors. So I dove in and revised these poems, wrote new poems and let my art carry me into this question.

My People Sent me a Canoe” is based on a dream I had of being flooded into the upstairs of our house with my (now grown–up) children, and seeing a yellow canoe glide up to the window. The paper canoe has become a powerful object in my recent art—a talisman, a ceremonial honoring of ancestral lineage, an act of sacred activism. As I folded dozens and dozens, and taught others to fold them, the canoes have become community connectors and evidence of embodied cultural memory transmission; and they helped me navigate my way towards future work. 1000 Gifts of Decolonial Love was also inspired by a dream of Sadako’s mother, a hibakusha, survivor of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. August 6 was the 75th anniversary of the bombings. Listening to Hideko Tamura Snider recount the horror of the bombs, I wondered why we allow our nation to continue honoring genociders while refusing to honor the survivors of unspeakable suffering caused by war?

“Foldboat for a Pandemic,” below, was inspired by Arundhati Roy’s essay, “The Pandemic is a Portal,” published in early April in Financial Times. It reflects my cautious optimism that we can, together, create a livable future. These poems are ceremonial; I send them out into the world with the hopes that they will serve to honor the living, the survivors, and our future kin who we hope can thrive.

Foldboat for a Pandemic

as if time folds in on itself
like a slice of the bellows
on a squeezed accordion
epochs collapse in one swift gesture

㆒ (chit)  fold down both halves shiny side in, swipe creases
㆓ (ng)    open one side, pull in a breath
㆔ (sa)    bend corners to the wrong side
㆕ (si)     wonder, why is this side wrong, that one right?

the space between long
long ago and yesterday
the time of Spanish Flu crushed into the Now
of coronavirus, gasps between Harvey, Irma, Maria collapsed
against Isaias, just named
the little ice age rushing towards
this next extinction event

五 (go)       fold dull sides together—no sheen to deflect
                   durable suffering of living, labor, birth, death
六 (dak)     find a portal, a magic opening in the bottom
七 (chit)     dive in and open up a canoe
八 (be)       bend stern into hull, touch keel
九 (gau)     fold tip into shallow triangle, obtuse isosceles

What do we need to survive the now? And to imagine anew
a world on the other side?

十 (tsub )    pivot the craft
                  steer clear of unexpected eddies

repeat on bow side
watch cyclone warnings

㆒             cradle starboard side in index and ring fingers
㆒             press thumbs gently firmlyinto corners
㆒             train fingers to sense just the right tensile strength
㆒             form soft edge on starboard side

watch cyclone warnings

㆒             pivot the craft
㆒             shore up port side

fill the hull with seeds… corn    beans              squash
               rice    bittermelon    chhen-chhaì    ying chhaì
sing a prayer into the hull
send seeds home
               where their kin have been waiting
               for a long, long time.

About the Author

A Taiwanese-born immigrant to North America, JuPong Lin is an educator, cultural worker, decolonial artist, and institutional activist who works in solidarity with climate justice movements. Her community performances fuse her Taiwanese ancestral traditions with poetics, paperfolding and Qigong. She cultivates kinship between peoples of different lands and creates bridges to ancestral wisdom and healing. JuPong is the Program Director of the MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts at Goddard College.

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