by Savannah Stuitje
In the 1990’s television was introduced to a small island in Fiji, Viti Levu
And I wonder, was it like Columbus stepping off his boat
telling the native women to cover their breasts
While his soldiers slipped swords between their legs and planted flags of patriotism deep in the fertile soil in the name of a king?
Was it like the neatly folded blankets presented by army officers to the Mandan Indians in Philadelphia?
Held at arms length
The tightly woven fibers ripe with disease
Leaving their people so warm they fled their pock marked bodies in the night
And were buried in the cool earth til nearly everyone was gone
When the brown cardboard boxes were unloaded and the smell of new plastic filled the room as each machine sputtered to life at the cautious touch of young girls
Their delicate flesh reflected on bulbous television glass as they crowded closer until they could only see the rounded geography of their thighs
Like land waiting to be tamed and quartered for money
Was it like the good intentions of missionaries sent to Africa to introduce their children to the face of God so they might be worthy of salvation from hands that shackled them together
hiding them from the light of day ‘til they forgot their faith
When the girls of Vita Levu pressed their hands to the screen like a cherished religious icon and were met with a crackle of electricity that raised the hairs on their brown arms
Did they feel rebuked?
When did the hills and valleys of their bodies come to feel foreign to the flat of their palms?
Ground to be cultivated and tilled under the firm grip of spinning blades
Ripping the weeds from their soil and sprinkled with pesticides that burn the eyes
When did the voices of their mothers asking them to come to dinner fade away under the opening notes of Beverly Hills?
Were they like the dodo bird
So content to be grounded in paradise that they forgot how to fly away?
Driven to extinction for pure sport by the Portuguese
By the Dutch who carelessly left rats, monkeys, and pigs
that made short work of the dodo
Justice for the girls of Vita Levu who turned their own bodies against themselves
Vomiting up the sins of others who told them beauty is to be achieved
In a series of steps
Because the hands around their necks in the name of perfection
Took away their appetites
And told them strength was going to bed hungry