The Valley of the Latte

by Danielle P. Williams

I lie and say that I’m a resident

to get the local price.

What I really mean to say is:
I am native.

But $45 is better than $90, and

I’ve already paid my weight in loss.

This is the first time I see Guahån this way.
I feel the heat of August on my skin as our boat

bides along Talofofo and Ugum. Two villages, one river.

The calm middle between jungle and ancestry.

As we glide through the water, we throw
breadcrumbs to bait greedy, plump catfish.

Our guide weaves me a tiara of palms.
Places it on my head. He weaves a rose and

places it in my left hand. I look up and
gush at the terrain. Such lush green tropics

swelling into the sky. My cousin tells me she
tries to visit once a year to feel closer to the ancestors.

As we approach the CHamoru village I am taught
how to ask the taotaomona for permission:

Guella yan guello kao siña yu’ maloffan gi tano-miyu?
Ancestors can I pass through your land?

We step off the boat and watch as canoes are hand
crafted by Ulitao. Men in lavalavas, bare skin to

show us what they’re made of. They show us
basket weaving like I’ve never seen before:

kottot rice gift baskets, balakagk fanny pack baskets.
Hagug for your voyage off island, the Chamorro

tupperware of baskets. Baskets like crowns

on the heads of women. We are taught how

to make fire. How it starts from palm and stone.
We see the ancient latte stones lined up and

parallel as if to say, you can thrive here.
It is here I realize these stones shape people.

I see latte stones as home, as shelter, as altar
cratered limestone clutched in my hand, like

coral or something that used to be.

Danielle P. Williams is a poet from Columbia, South Carolina. She is a MFA candidate at George Mason University where she works as an Editorial Coordinator for Poetry Daily. She serves as the Poetry Editor for So To Speak, and is a 2019 Alan Cheuse MFA Fellow. She strives to write poetry that gives voice to unrepresented cultures and has a passion for understanding and connecting with the past. Danielle makes it a point to expand on the narratives and experiences of her Black and Chamorro cultures. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming online at The Pinch, Verse Daily, ucity review, Praxis Center, and more.