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.

About this Poem

“This poem is a grieving process. It is growing up too fast. It is a repeated settling into the memories of growing up with little blood family and away from a homeland. It is thinking back and realizing that most of what comes to the surface is negative. The opposite of warmth. It is confused at the way other people easily recollect a good memory. It is seeing past joys as a needle in a haystack: a surprise. Unexpected. Scarce.”
Ngaio Simmons