Laʻaupau Moon

Moving towards that place in the ocean
Where the moon spills almost half its light
Seatbelt tight against my left shoulder
Over the washboard road till I can’t go
Any further the cliffs of Upolu held me up
Once before here on the edge where
Dreams trade places with everyday
Walking life where now I see if the moon
Can do it I can let it go too if I’m honest
I’ll tell you fear dances a merry dance
At the roots of my hair don’t ask me
What’s to be afraid of I’m just being
Honest I can only guess anyone can
Dance this dance it comes with mortality
I feel this gentle lift from the northeast
I’ll take gentle today I know how the wind
Can blow if she lets go no I’ll do the letting
Go right now out of the truck surf pushing
Hushing boomphing against the breaking
Limits of land sun at my back Maui
Mysterious above thick band of cloud
Deceptively linear from this distance
Less than 30 miles and we think straight
Lines are a fact at my age I’ve stopped
Believing in straight lines my daughter
Jemma tells me write about nothing
To write about because nothing’s
Happened because everything’s
Happened in the nothing inside
That nothing so I come to the edge
Looking for the light emptied out
Of last night’s moon my head’s
Spinning with full moons before
After new dark moons threaded
Through my calendar pages
It’s enough this nothing listening
To it I sense its power hear its
Hum coming from the ocean floor
But most of all feel its branches
Tendrils dendritic reach entwined
With mine no wonder fear dances
Beneath it hasn’t got a chance
While everything above’s embraced

Ha‘aha‘a

Quote

Yesterday was a good day for all sorts of reasons. Then, to top it off, my hula brother Kalani and I got up and danced at the Bamboo restaurant that evening. Mila (what an amazing man!) played Waikaloa (the lighthouse on Maui, not the Hilton north of Kailua-Kona) and we made plenty people smile. Joan, the owner, called out Hana hou! and teased the roomful of diners now it was their turn. It was so much fun.

So this morning I was feeling pretty good about myself when I arrived at the Hawai‘I Wildlife Sanctuary to dance with my halau. Of course I talked up our Waikaloa moment the night before. Pretty soon after the keiki performed and the wahine danced Mokihana Lullaby, we three kane did what our halau fondly calls the chicken dance. It’s really called Lei Moaulahiwa, written by Kuana Torres. Maybe with our Waimea blue shirts on we had a little kalij going for us. Still, we had our puffed up burlap ruffle cummerbund that we wore when we won first place at the competition in September. Kumu Kaui only had the rehearsal music, not the mele by itself, so we had to dance the whole competition version, the ka‘i, the mele, and the ho‘i. That was fine till we got to the ho‘i. Brother Kealoha walked right off and disappeared behind a wall, leaving Kalani and me to figure out how things were supposed to go. I think we were so stunned at seeing our hula brother disappear like that, we couldn’t even fake it (well, speaking for myself). We danced this way and that way and then we heard ha‘ina! loud and clear coming from Michael our teacher, in the audience, so we pulled it together sort of, and bumbled through the rest (again, speaking for myself).

What I noticed right away when we joined Kealahoa was that he said nothing and acted as if nothing out of the ordinary happened. I looked at Kalani and saw his expression, a kind of half-smile. Acknowledgement and acceptance with one look. Immediately I heard those three words in my mind, Let It Go.

I went over to the wahine where they stood watching Michael and two younger wahine dancing Keali‘i Reichel’s No Luna exquisitely. I slid my iPhone out of my pocket and began videoing their dance, thinking, Wow, maybe I’ll finally get the hang of the second verse. It’s not that I’m striving for perfection, just that I want to perform the dances with heart and soul, to convey the meaning through our movements, and really, to blend in with other dancers so I’m not sticking out like a sore thumb.

Or a sore loser! The thing is that being left there in front of the audience with Kalani was kind of a gift. My hula brothers and sisters are always reminding me, if you make a mistake, keep going! We kept moving but I’m sure the expression on my face showed utter confusion and loss of direction. Did I say gift? Well, here you go! It’s all yours! Your lesson in humility for today! Yeah that. That is actually a truly valuable gift, for which I am grateful. But more than that, acknowledging and accepting that I’m still learning and there is so much room for growth. Just last week, I saw Kumu Keala Ching doing the most sublime ‘uwehe during his dancing of Hi‘ilawi. It was like he took that split second and opened it up to reveal a whole world with that movement.

I’m in such a hurry sometimes I forget there’s whole worlds inside our least movement, our slightest expression. If hula is teaching me anything, it’s that I am my body, I’m not just in it, I am it. I want to live like that. You see great dancers like Kumu Keala moving so gracefully through the world. I saw the same grace with my mentors Jonathan and Moira, who were immersed in theatre. These artists engage fully their lives; they embrace reality so warmly it begins to vibrate and you can see into other worlds.

Hula is life. Theatre is life. I love it. Can you hear that gentle cosmic laughter inside the Hawaiian word for humility, ha‘aha‘a? I can.

CATCHING UP

Two men in the dying light the round table spread out
raw fish kimchee cucumber red pepper pate seeded
baguette slices one sips Malbec the other beer brewed
down the road when they can’t see they begin feeling
amidst the small plates fingertips brush against wasabi
and shoyu looking for the opener till they pick up the table
and everything on it move into the moonlight the single
life waxes one it’s simple uncluttered and anyway could
I live with anyone could anyone live with me by the time
the cats laid out at some distance on the stones become
mere shadows we’re talking about death encountering
the finality of a loved one a wife a mother we talk about
embrace embracing embraced all the variations on
holding out your arms to your neighborhood your hula
halau the wind change planting dancing inside our stories
names places dates distance years time it’s been awhile
since we did this and it’s getting darker some people
call it catching up I see our moonlit faces leave
the angular positions of our bodies there in the chairs
and rise into the night arms outstretched hands ready
to receive illuminations of our days that didn’t spill
into the deep regardless the endless inevitability until
that scent of finality brings us back to clocks and calendars
and we clear the table bring everything we didn’t consume
inside and walk to the car that will take one of us home
the other already home moving along invisible walls
and doorways fingertips wide awake still talking

SECOND BREAKFAST

Second breakfast after listening to the breakers
between my ears even the long silence of the temple
bell vibrated with distant waves shorelines for a few
minutes anyway I stopped naming places I remember
the eggs arrive and I make the cuts with my bamboo
knife and fork that banana I ate earlier with my espresso
itself a distant sound now against my palate I got
lightheaded in the hour leading up to this moment
pushing the yolk across the plate with the edge
of my toast I marvel again how chickens capture
sunlight in white and ovoid even the road at my back
takes on long deserted strands I’ve never visited
it’s not like the bad news isn’t traveling faster than
the speed of light I’ve simply decided to hear it
for what it is instead of worshipping things that sink
like a stone my heart is not a rock and I know
my soul is lighter than a feather the weather’s
worth talking about after all the night’s are getting
cooler I’m changing and I know you are too

NIGHT BREAK

They say day breaks but it’s night

that’s broken open its deep dark

cover thrown off for this turning

 

I stand knees bent testing the distance

to the solid core I’m shaking my head

what a miracle if this is what reality

 

is like behind the waterfall of getting

and spending then bring it on I embrace

this fecundity this being this turning

UNDER THE CANOE

Tonight standing under the canoe purchased

from a resort did it ever touch water this

ceremonial waʻa long enough for ten people

to sit inside I came for the music a wild

skillful pianist who plays boogie Rachmaninov

a cool sax player in shades Ricardo on guitar

lead wearing a porkpie hat and a drummer

well the subtleties and innuendoes were flying

and many were nodding their heads keeping

time I don’t know what made me look up

and study the straps their stitching a loose thread

at the kanaka end the stout screw eyes seated

snug to the beams lines taut bowline on the bite

kanaka and lupe a beautiful canoe butterfly

inlay and lacquered thick heavy as a tree

long as an unfinished song I’ve been here

before standing beneath this canoe hula practices

or kanikapila this canoe’s suspended overhead

tonight’s no different it’s frozen in time although

outside a thin curve of light called kūkolu moon

stirs my blood I poured the rest of my red wine

out on the ʻāina consider it an offering or

a blessing I wish us well with our undertakings

I’m glad I came out tonight the news still

warm on the home screen I think to myself

refugees aren’t the problem it’s refuge a place

to do what the piano player said tonight

come together for songs of love and loss

hanging on or letting go burning up or freezing

moving on or staying behind I left early

walked out beneath that long moon handle

opened up the night and walked in while

the songs were still fresh they say half

full or half empty I say standing under

that canoe the music rises up and keeps us

afloat not just up there defying gravity but

moving out there island to island looking

for new shorelines and answers to this

restlessness some of us call home

MY TRUCK

This bright morning breaks into sundogs flying

across bedroom walls window light fallen flat

on a carpet of sheep hair tied into Buddha curls

showing faceless shadow puppets made by leaves

dancing outside big as hands with the sun in their palms

I sit silently in the corner chair remembering the hollow

hour of two when I awoke clear-eyed in the absence

of all this light disconcerted by another dream

another retelling of how you left your preparations

my sense of loss before losing before finding myself

rushing to the cool dark surface of separation

I tell myself it’s another dream a revision of the story

in this version you’re surrounded by women I don’t know

finally I offer the use of my truck to move your stuff

but you shake your head I’m beginning to understand

there’s no easy answer to this question unless

the test the room the light the pieces of rainbow

and more than this a vibration the wind’s

other half an echo before the birth of sound

will reveal itself when I’m least expecting it

from the beginning they said we were soul mates

it seems we can’t see who we are without looking

through the lenses of other eyes in the end beauty

engulfs all the senses we were born with in one breath