May 2020

It’s been 300 days since I first laid in your arms
First felt the chill of your kiss on my skin 
You brought me to the thin line between life and death
Between frostbite and heat exhaustion 
You taught me balance

And when you stretched your arms around us
You taught us safety
What it meant to create security with our own bodies
So for you 
I am every child who imagined someday you’d be free
I am every prayer laid at your feet

These days 
I am hundreds of miles away 
But you still visit me in my dreams
We share ceremony with Niolopua
And in that realm 
You keep all my secrets
All my fears 
All I am too afraid or ashamed to say out loud

For my fellow kiaʻi
It’s been 300 days since we marked the boundaries
Lined our jurisdictions with the trembling tenor of our collective voice
Since we began to feed each other
In food
In spirit
In care

For you
I am everything that cannot be broken
I am your first pinky promise
I am the incoming swell
I am every bit of love you taught me to lay at her feet
I am songs between stories, between tears
I am the water we fought to protect
That we shared 
In the bitter cold of night
When we worried
No one else was coming

Related Poems

Diary of a Wave Outside the Sea [The martyr couldn’t believe his eyes]

The martyr couldn't believe his eyes
when his tomb was bombed
as he braided a garland for his beloved—
a red garland,
yet...on the way to heaven ...
it turned white.
He bent toward the water with a small rainbow clutched in his hand.

In this way he makes music.
He lifts is hands to the clouds and braids her tears into a flower.
In this way he sings.

A wave breaking outside the sea.
In this way I go on.

Unlawful Assembly

Don’t hurry to safety.
Each hour your flowered room grows smaller.
Everywhere at the periphery of vision
windows shatter into triangles
of mosaic light.
There in the lonely fragments
a youtube dictator
declares victory,
blood flattens and darkens.
The scent of rebellion
smoke fire and ash
all pungent in the still images
sacrificed to history.
Somewhere the flapping door of an overturned wagon
thumps steadily
in a deserted street—
echoes absent hands.

This Island on Which I Love You

And when, on this island on which
I love you, there is only so much land
to drive on, a few hours to encircle
in entirety, and the best of our lands
are touristed, the beaches foam-laced
with rainbowing suntan oil,
the mountains tattooed with asphalt,
pocked by telescoped domes,
hotels and luxury condos blighting
the line between ocean and sky,

I find you between the lines
of such hard edges, sitting on
the kamyo stool, a bowl of coconut,
freshly grated, at your feet.

That I hear the covert jackaling
of helicopters and jets overhead
all night through our open jalousies,
that my throat burns from the scorch
of the grenaded graves of my ancestors,
the vog that smears the Koʻolaus into a blur
of greens, that I wake to hear the grind
of you blending vegetables and fruit,
machine whirl-crunching coffee beans,
your shoulder blades channelling ocean,
a steady flux of current.

Past the guarded military testing grounds,
amphibious assault vehicles emerging
from the waves, beyond the tangles
of tarp cities lining the roads, past
the thick memory of molasses coating
the most intimate coral crevices,
by the box jellyfish congregating under
ʻOle Pau and Kāloa moons, at the park
beneath the emptied trees, I come
to find you shaking five-dollar coconuts
(because this is all we have on this island),
listening to the water to guess
its sweetness and youth.

On this island on which I love you,
something of you is in the rain rippling
through the wind that make the pipes
of Waikīkī burst open. Long brown
fingers of sewage stretch out
from the canal, and pesticided
tendrils flow from every ridge
out to sea, and so we stay inside
to bicker over how a plumeria tree
moves in the wind, let our daughters
ink lines like coarse rootlets
in our notebooks, crayon lines
into ladders on our walls
and sheets. Their first sentences
are sung, moonlit blowhole plumes
of sound that calls pebbles to couple,
caverns to be carved, ʻuala to roll
down the hillside again, and I could
choke on this gratitude for you all.

This island is alive with love,
its storms, the cough of alchemy
expelling every parasitic thing,
teaching me to love you with
the intricacies of island knowing,
to depend on the archipelagic
spelling of you lying next to me,
our blue-screen flares their own
floating islands after our daughter
has finally fallen asleep,
to trust in the shape and curve
of your hand reaching out to hold mine
making and remaking an island our own.