A SMALL STONE

Not everyone could see the problem beneath his smile
Caught in the throat a small stone an ossification
Secretions of notions he couldn’t swallow whole
Phrases in lost languages of the heart the gut
Stuck sentiments he couldn’t cough up hardening
Layer by layer where resistance hadn’t earned its name
In his litany of hours so he was surprised when the surgeon
Her long black dress open at the knee dancing
Over his chest twisted the arc of truth open in the air
Till the light came in shining blinding after the ordeal
He unfurled his fingers from her hair his eyes exhausted
Dimmed and wet a sense of loss as he peered
At the round thing he’d allowed to grow its fissures
Veins where pieces of mountain coral hazelroot
And kukui nut shell stitched themselves together
Flecks of gold belonging to some ancient promise
Arousing a pang of remorse the nurse came in
Offering uisce but he thought she’d said whiskey
And shook his head wai she said agua and beneath
His smile the waterfall made its thundering way
To the churning pool where he stripped and followed

GOOD THINGS COME IN THREES

Three nights of Perseid showers came and went

their lights flirting with the atmosphere so well

I missed them entirely either sleeping through

those first darker hours or squinting into moonlight

that spilled and stained cloud cover so I threw

off my own bed cover before dawn Sunday

and silently assembled more than I needed

in the car and headed down to the shore at Kapa’a

arriving in the fast growing light of our island

dawn my hula brothers and sisters there already

a fire blazing in the raised stone pit a fire visible

from Hana almost 40 miles across the ‘Alenuihāhā

our own inner fires lit up since 3 A.M.

we’re wearing our colors our symbols of hula

in Kohala with the fern print muslin later photos

showed joy on our faces but this wasn’t a joy-ride

we brought gifts for the island of Kaua’i along

with our dances before breakfast we gathered

above the little coral beach when a barn owl

tyto alba flew close right over our heads into

the woods towards Mahukona we released

ho’okupu wrapped in ti into the soft tugging

embrace of the ocean as we faced Kaua’i’s direction

and I’m probably not alone imagining our gifts

making their way to that island 268 miles away

Kealoha chanted strongly at sunrise

joined in the circle by our alaka’i Michael

who vibrated with the higher notes

these were the moments when elderly recreation

under the auspices of Hawai’i County Council

transformed elevated by ritual and protocol

and I confess when I saw the solo kane ho’okupu

return with the tide to swirl inside some

shoreline rocks as if reluctant to go deeper

I felt here’s the truth here’s the visible world

telling me to let go showing me how to be out

of control my dance celebrates places around

Kaua’i the summit of Wai’ale’ale the crescent

beach of Hanalei the long strands of Kekaha

where glimpses of Ni’ihau may be seen

you’d have to be a large winged bird to see

all those places in one song hula’s done that

for me transformed the aerial impossibilities

into what? personal or universal mountains

so steep reaching above my head inner

landscapes so vast and varied I’d have to be

a big-winged bird to make it what am I

thinking is this a survival course why

get all dramatic just reach through the pain

at the knees for the little shells think of the piko

to stay balanced turn back for the mokihana

berries and twist around to show everyone

my rare beautiful lei be the dancer this late

in the day afterwards we danced our five dances

sang our blessing over the food we looked out

and saw spinner dolphins just off shore

if the owl was that singular master moving

through uncertainty and transformation

here were the ocean’s dancers rising

gliding together you could hear it

in our voices ah look oh my oh that

is beautiful they’re here for us yes

and when the rising sun glistened

on one spinner rising clear and free

of the surface ooh and as my wife

liked to say good things come in threes

a rainbow appeared arching vividly

between cloud and sea bridging seen

and unseen with its flourishing signature

upon our huaka’i our journey in learning

as if to say yes you’re going the right way

 

 

‘OLEPAU

This distance between us is growing
This first day of August clearly saying
Here I am look around just let yesterday
Try pushing past with its just one more
Thought let balance find its way all over
Again and again and a single spider
Suspends herself between arica palm
Legs and purple leaf vitex spray beneath
That strand of silk Haleakala smiles
In a lei of slow moving clouds we’re all
In suspense it’s over this season my Irish
Ancestors called Beltane fun as it was
Watching all those hot-blooded young
Women leaping around the tent on the mountain
The next day I planted half a dozen lavenders
The smell of peace still on my fingertips
It’s the waxing gibbous moon called ‘olepau
Whispering now’s the time for planting ulu
Or string beans I take this to include lavender
Movement is good what’s not moving
I ask you the time for planting sadness
With its scent of dust is past besides this
Isn’t just another orbit in space marking time
If we’re going to grow up and become flowers
Then we need to be students of movement
Swelling breaking opening emerging
Forgetting the madness we call our busy lives
The twisting and blinking between blossom
And wilting till we grumble about the mess
I’m going to make one now I’m going to prune
All the dead branches from the old lime tree

STOPPING

Last night the usual confusion around Hawaiian pronunciation and meaning
When the singer Mila sat across from us after his set quickly pinching tears
Away from his eyes while he explained his take on Queen Kapi’olani’s poem
Ka Ipo Lei Manu written for her husband David Kalakaua in the late 19th century
When the king was in San Francisco when the queen’s love poem became
A song of mourning it was not the iwa bird the black streamlined
Thief we call the frigate bird the one who glides in ahead of the storms nor
Was it iwi the bones the bones we felt chilled earlier when Mila sang falsetto
No it was the little i’iwi its yellow plumage telling us it was a young bird
In the rain on the mountain the queen thought there would be more and I
Cried again hearing him say it realizing I wasn’t finished either this morning
I’m still walking in the rain wishing I’d paid attention when but when
Is a moveable feast and I always hesitated hungry as I was this morning
Two iwa birds sailed out of the confusion over the windmills at Upolu
Soared between two arms of a storm feeling its way along Maui’s shores
And slopes and Kohala on our side of the channel where does the iwa
Bird stand still I wondered my runaway mind jealous of those hollow
Bones that streamlined form I got drenched by the storm’s embrace
Stripped off at my truck this is what stopping looks like an empty day
On the calendar a photograph of a butterfly on my wrist I’m remembering
Other times alone long ago moments when I stopped and boiled rice
Swam naked thought there would always be time I live in a place still
Grieving for the dead king what’s left of the i’iwi birds follow the uplands
Curving their beaks toward the nectar like yesterday’s right here there’s
No metaphor for stopping even a rock moves its molecules slo-mo
Allows itself to sink beneath the surface stopping’s a verb curled up
Under the hau tree healing itself minding its own unfinished business

STILL SPEAKING TO EACH OTHER

The day the white-eyes come the little mejiro
Hop-flick their way branch to branch outside
Windows intent on bug catching with their needle
Beaks they sing on oblivious to my gaze
My wide-eyed hunger for moments like this
When beauty stands still and vibration holds
Its breath I’m holding mine too as I study first-
Hand distinct plumage and perfect Sumi-e
Circles ‘round each eye everything’s hungry
On this planet I’m eating seasonal appearances
Of little passerines and they’re eating little bugs
Eating little buds but there’s gut-ache
And heartburn ahead for all or one of us
Because there’s too many of us because there’s
Not enough and the precious akepa can’t keep up
And when we’re not looking the mejiro invade
Hawaiian forests the truth of the falling leaf
Spiraling to earth in a summer breeze
Is written in a language spoken when every
Living thing was still speaking to each other
Nothing fell off the cycle of life without a smile
Sadness didn’t tighten the lips or furrow the brow
Breathing in was breakfast and breathing out
Fed the world out of the forest a hawk soars
An i’o now we’re the ones outside the windows
Turning and turning necks at their limits
Eyes feasting on this morning’s cloudless
Sky and a roofline followed to the edge of blindness
Where three geckos inch towards each other
Sticking out their tongues tasting the sun

NO MORE WAITING

A heavy rain dunk the biscotti bite

through the next thought and the next

Tahitian ginger blossoms strewn

under their bush-become-tree reaching

over the quartzite jigsaw we named lanai

I find myself counting the white petals

eight all told in each there’s a number

shaken loose by the downpour but this

isn’t about one overdue gardening project

everywhere I look’s the same if ever there

was a sense of control it’s been shaken

loose too and all illusion of order with it

Monday last I cut back one night blooming

jasmine outside my bedroom and another

near the fire pit the Queen of the Night

reduced to knee height twice afterwards

seeing I’d made small wounds openings

where fear flushed through so fast I was ready

to accept responsibility for new empty space

ready to plant something less overpowering

a scent such as cinnamon gardenia ready

to turn my back on it give resilience a chance

allow the cut branches to flourish anew

can I keep this up this cutting and shaping

this risking this turning my back on emptiness

one thing about a downpour in the night

so heavy it pushed through leaks in the roof

I’d thought repaired it’s left the air

refreshed breathed into hesitation

it’s cool this relief with beauty in disarray

 

THE END OF FURY

My mother likes to say she used to walk to the end
of Fury looks you in the eye as if you’re intimately
familiar with this street as if her passion and will
can be measured by common coordinates she who
cannot put her finger on the common world of Other
certainly not easily theirs is a distant country with customs
and peculiarities she navigates with good manners
red-headed wit and phrases so well-turned
they slip like fish through her lips and leap
ladders passeth misunderstanding into
upstream waters calm and only disconcerting
when you realize she’s bestowed upon you
her kind of Irish blessing speared you with
cliche so if my daughters crossed the road
without looking or never cashed the birthday
check or went months without calling then
the apple didn’t fall far from the tree never mind
her own core and seed’s descent from the heights
as it sought to pierce the surface where the roots
embrace and home again all the way from Fury
spent at last vulnerable though not without
her camouflage of wit her red hair faded now to gray
a softening transforming my old dear mother
into a bundle of smiles eyes still vivid twinkling
with less of a sharp edge the words I love you
spontaneous and most disarming people say
it’s a generational thing can it be true can love
swim this easily from the lips looking for calm
in a burgeoning world the branches quarreling
entire libraries burned to the ground by the time
we reach the end of Fury and head back humbled
wizened bereft grieving alone is it only then
we notice the road home is longer than we imagined
and anyway it’s bad luck to go back