Wild Piper. Photo by Mokkie via Wikimedia Commons.


Wild Piper

Piper guamensis

by Craig Santos Perez

This poem is taken from the chapter 'Wild Piper' in

The Mind of Plants

Narratives of Vegetal Intelligence

Synergetic PressBook launchWebsite

The first eåmtis1 who found me

       in the deep jungle

bowed to my branches—

       called me saina—

    & shared stories of her sick village—

i pitied them—no roots—

    fragile bark—prone to illness

       & pain—they weep

    like no other wounded

animal on this island—

so i gifted her

    my leaves

to soothe her people—

when the time came

    i granted her permission

to teach her daughter

    the places i grow

abundant—what illnesses i treat—

       when to harvest—& this

    was how we grafted

i taotao to i tano—


doctors arrived & hospitals erected—

    until bulldozers uprooted our home—

       until militaries & toxins

    infected the soil—

until barbed wire fences separated

    us—until i taotao tano

died from cancer & diabetes—

    after so much loss

the descendants of eåmtis

    are now returning

to relearn my names

    & plant the sacred language

       of åmot

    back into their bodies—

so that we may grow perennially—

    so that we may once again blossom

       & heal—

1 “Eåmtis” is the Chamoru word for a traditional healer who gathered and prepared native plants as “åmot,” or medicine. Chamorus are the indigenous peoples of the Marianas archipelago, where I am originally from. Chamorus are also referred to as i taotao tano, the people of the land (“i taotao” translates as “the people” and “i tano” as “the land”). In Chamoru epistemology, plants are considered our ancestors, and are sometimes referred to as “saina,” which means “parent” and “elder.” Colonial western medicine and hospitals displaced the eåmtis tradition, US militarization polluted our lands and waters, fragmented the jungle, and endangered native medicinal plants. Today, Chamoru people suffer from high rates of cancer and diabetes. In response, a new generation of eåmtis are relearning the practice of åmot to heal our people and advocate for the protection of the environment.