Lei Kukui, Lei Kuahu

The impermanence of lei
On dark altars of stone
A dream of lei kukui
Placed on the kuahu
Coils of lush green leaves

Fragrant leaf stems neatly knotted
Plaited along a backspine
Joined one to the other
Bound by a fast symmetry
Calling forth 

The spectral presences
Of our gods 
We seek your permission,
That you will hear 
Our importunate prayers

Our songs through the far forests
And as with birds
Contemn their dark silences with light;
We seek your companionship,
On our right shoulders and left

Above us and below
The surround of your playful
And somber accompaniments
Your presences in our gardens
Your residencies on our altars;

We seek wakefulness,
That we long slumbering
Yet evanescent
Will become luminous
As leaves on brightened paths;

We seek your acceptance,
That the hidden canopies
Will reveal themselves
Each bright leaf 
Giving itself of its own accord;

We seek resonance,
From the tops of our heads
To the bottoms of our feet
From the center of our chests
To the leaf tips of our hands

We seek all of these things—
A purer correspondence 
With the radiance of leaves.

Copyright © 2022 by Mahealani Perez-Wendt. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 16, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.