huki the gate

for Kauaʻi paniolo Uncle David Hepa and Uncle Keoki Ka‘eo

huki the gate—
work the lock with your fingers,
pull the smooth wire loop 
over the top of the ʻōhia log post,
grasp the top rail with your right hand,
press your left booted heel
into the warm flank of your mount
the tap of a spur might encourage him
as the gate swings in.

huki the gate—
swing his head around with a tug on the reins,
swing his hindquarters ʻround with a tap of your leg.
Ease back towards the gate, easy, easy;
a steady hand on the rein holds him close
while you drop the latch closed.

huki the gate—
every seasoned paniolo knows how
If you’re lucky it’s made of wood
old ‘ōhi‘a sawed into five foot lengths
or better still, thick railway ties secured 
to an old telephone pole by
strong, well-oiled hinges.
Or maybe galvanized pipe two inches in diameter
welded by uncle and sprayed Krylon black

huki the gate—
some days, it’s the gate from hell.
the barbed wire kine, with two rotted poles and no support.
You lift up the latch and it sags to the ground
like a rusted barbed accordion
just daring you to learn how to play it.

huki the gate—
careful not to drop it,
cuz you no like hea Uncle Frank scold,
grip it tight with your right hand,
steer your horse with your left,
hold it up, get a grip, maneuver it in place
tap chestnut flanks with your left leg, then right, then left,
guide your horse through with patience
and fortitude. 

huki the gate—
you’re only halfway pau,
sometimes your mount has a mind of his own.

huki the gate—
steady hands and temper are your best allies,
tugging and pulling gate and horse simultaneously
into proper position

huki the gate—
every seasoned paniolo knows
good fences make good neighbors
but getting through good gates
gets you where you want to go.

Copyright © 2022 by kuʻualoha hoʻomanawanui. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 20, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.