Is that vintage? they ask.  

It was my father’s, I say and think of a man for whom 
that word meant only a crack about drink—

            Gimme a tall one of your finest vintage!

I found it among tie pins and cufflinks in his top drawer, 
filched it years before I knew the word, 

            knew only that I wanted something I could take from him
            who knew work and the bar better than home, 

            something I would have never called 
            beautiful and ruined. 

Crystal scratched, leather dry and stitching frayed. 
He never noticed it was gone, 

            or else he never said. 

From his dresser to the carved wooden box I buried 
inside my hand-me-down chest, 

            until the no more of him sent me rooting 
            for some relic I could hold. 

Glass polished and gears set right, new band strapped around my wrist.


It’s beautiful, they say.  

It was my father’s, and I let them assume, 

            inheritance or gift, 

that he was a man of taste, who shared it with his son.  

From Filched (Dos Madres Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by James Tolan. Used with the permission of Holly Messitt.

I don’t know how to do this
no reference,
no root of grandparents
cup of older sister or brother
eye of parent, I don’t 
have strong blood to call on, instead, 
have snapshots, strained twining
the dark that still doesn’t know how to grow

I can remember having a yard once
for a year or so when I was little
my dad set up a kiddie pool, baseball and bat,
needle and string for the plumeria 
that grew near the stone steps,
tried his best to give me childhood,
books and drawing paper,
a gift every day

I have photos to help 
with this though
otherwise I couldn’t tell 
you on my own
what it felt like,
with the following years 
spelled out in moons

                         Tamatea Āio


Kai-Ariki                                             a Ngana


looks too much like every night you 
shouldn’t go out,
ripping away of hands
                                    are you sure they did that?
silence so loud, it is still 
too hard to sit in it

Had my youth
hui’ed out of me
grew up quickly 
once we left Kāneohe,
shoved like pou into Waikīkī 
and so far
from my ancestors
it’s no surprise 
I have little in the way 
of good memory,
while everyone sits at the table and says
with warmth resting deep between teeth,
I can’t speak the same language
know love as 
and the rest of this life,
as running to try and catch 
the whole sun

I don’t know that one 
you speak of
at least I can’t remember it
wish I could

Copyright © 2022 by Ngaio Simmons. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 10, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

For now, we speak only in brooms:
         sweeping sand across the teeth 

of concrete slabs, we brush and repeat 
         each stone syllable of the clearing

where our great grandparents are buried. 

Some words for memory are always here, 
         sounded out by the ant feet 

hefting sand grit and glitter homes, fan-light
         over the blue tongues of plastic flowers— 

the weeds will try to cover all the other ways 
         of saying history. 

But our pronunciation begins with the clearing we make in our bodies first:

where the broom handle widens the oh’s 
         in the mouth of our hands, 

how we shake open the throat 
         to settle each pile of leaves before burning them.

Trust the body to open in our language
         with the rhythm of weight—

one hand pushing sand, 
         the other pulling syllables

in one last sway 
         as we close the gate of the malaʻe 

so the trees can better hiss-hush at the edge of the ancestor 
         speaking in all our names.

Copyright © 2022 by Leora Kava. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 17, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.