“Isles of the Wise” by Sharon Suzuki-Martinez
Led by women since time immemorial, the world’s last official matriarchal religion survives in the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa). My mother’s parents and all their parents were born on these islands. Mom never wanted to visit, and characteristically, would not explain why. This mystery always drew me to Okinawa. When I finally visited, my husband and I saw utaki or sacred groves roped off for the Kaminchu or holy women. We stumbled upon one utaki in the midst of a modern metropolis. Inches from a playground without graffiti or broken beer bottles. It was a small pristine stand of banyan trees, their aerial roots winding like the veins of a giant. Behind them, a cave as white as papyrus. I had found my doorway to the beginning and the end of all questions.
The gods speak only to women.
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Sharon Suzuki-Martinez Artist Statement:
Sharon Suzuki-Martinez is the author of The Way of All Flux (New Rivers Press, 2012), and editor
of The Poet’s Playlist. She received Pushcart and Best of the Web nominations, and was
awarded fellowships to the Anderson Center at Tower View and Kundiman. She is a sansei
(3rd generation Japanese American) born in Hawaii and now lives in Arizona with her