Haole Girl

by Arah Ko


In class, a girl taps my shoulder – where did you come from?
I mean to say origin does not equal belonging, but when I open
my mouth, I taste humidity & rotting mangoes, salty limu,
metallic a’a rock after heavy rain. When I was young, coarse
hair rivering to my waist, I looked like a nearly-native tree.
Kind Aunty K sewed six fabric pa’u skirts for me with nimble
fingers, taught me kaholo, ha’a, uwehe, kaholo again. Her bare
feet were gorgeous & silent on the stone floor. Dry wind
from the Mauna, clouds gathered around its waist like a heavy
skirt. Trading a dollar at the market to a fierce woman for spam
musubi and a quarter, fingered & forgotten in my pocket
through the rainy season. The kupuna who taught me to bend
ti leaves into magic shapes, fish & lures, hats & leis. Playing
Kōnane at the park with my brother, bone coral white against
smooth pahoehoe. You know King Kamehameha won with a single
The stink of wild boar rotting at the edge of a dirt road.
The moana with many names like the vast skirt of the earth.
The crunch of opihi at a graduation party laden with leis, fire
-works someone’s father traded the cops beer not to notice.
The uncles clearing paths after hurricanes. The hurricanes on
my birthday every year like a present. The Mauna protecting us
from the storm. The protectors under Costco tarps on the Mauna.
The flag, battered, monarchy colors shining like parrot fish
on a line. The ʻāina I grew on like an imported fruit, introduced
crop, invasive flock, nourished by rainwater, poi, malasadas.
ʻĀina I winged away from like a migratory bird – I can never return.


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