in the coconut breeze,
ponder the hum
of runaway ocean.
Men test the shallows
stab at shadows
then poke and prod holes
beneath the surface.
The men are
stick figures, bending.
The sea is a canvas of tortures.
The beach is missing its
people. Mansions at Black Point
pretend to be human.
They crowd the soft bay,
this skinny shore.
Waves slap the sand,
and the day before.
The water fills
with pleasure boats.
A sharp white sail
severs water from sky.
Queen Lili'uokalani, where is our aina?
My memories are a mixture of slack key,
plumeria, and Kona wind in the trees.
I measure the trades with a desperate tongue.
Kapiolani is a park. Kaiulani is a hotel.
It is no longer enough to watch
the winter tide test the persistence of shores.
Lili'uokalani, do you see what I see?
Do you see my Hyatt uniform drying
on a balcony overlooking H-1 Freeway?
Honolulu windows burn a thousand suns.
But it keeps on raining out at sea.
The rain comes warm, unexpected.
Do you, Queen Lili'uokalani,
hold back tears for what you lost?
Did you carry your grief into heaven?
Paradise falls to us in pieces,
pieces governed by the highest bidders.
Their blueprints cover sacred land with walls.
Walls to protect investments.
Walls to exclude the less fortunate.
Walls to keep Hawaiians out.
Kapus make Hawai'i a land of strangers.
Beach access is a narrow path between estates,
a strip of crushed coral and kuku weeds.
Sometimes I see the rich dipping toes
in the chlorinated safety of oceanfront pools.
Dear Lili'uokalani, Hawai'i is fee simple.
Hawai'i is fair market value.
Hawai'i is for sale and already sold.
A shadow falls on Iolani Palace.
Now Kalakaua is an avenue
ruled by stoplights and crosswalks.
Likelike and Kamehameha
are remembered as highways.
The majority encourages progress.
The majority is no longer Hawaiian.
Storm birds off Oahu circle clockwise
then counterclockwise over the cobalt sea.
Today I swim out past the reef
into the deep water where the waves are built.
Everything pretends to be as it was--
the swells promising shorebreak,
the surfers powering into the break zone,
the prayers for yesterday's waves.
A turtle rises, gasps, fills its lungs with rainbow air.
I see the fields burning on the North Shore.
We hiked to find Old Hawai'i.
I remember you looking down
over the burning acres of Oahu cane
and the abandoned pine fields on Moloka'i.
The clouds were white flags on a blue sky.
The path I cut through this ocean
will be erased, the ripples giving way to reflection
of hotel towers, intersecting mountains, cane-smoked sky.
But our footprints are messages left behind:
kisses in the red earth.
My grandmother's mares roamed the big pasture bordering Moloka'i's public road. But she kept Fizz, her oldest mare, in the lot next to her house. Fizz was a gray horse with a nervous disposition. Because my father felt Fizz was too tempermental to ride, he wanted to breed her. He liked it when people and animals were productive. The day the stallion arrived, I stood behind the fence and watched a blue trailer back up. It was hot and humid and the blood flies were swarming.
My father swung open the gate to the lot. He wore a white undershirt, khaki shorts, and a cowboy hat too big for his head. He wanted to supervise while my mother was back home in Honolulu. She rarely accompanied him to Moloka'i because she said he spent more time working the ranch than taking her to hotels and restaurants. She was a city girl from Boston who hated wide open spaces. The trailer entered the lot and I could see the stallion's black nostrils flaring against the breathing hole.
"Let 'im go, Mendoza!" my father said.
Mendoza, a stocky Portuguese man, pulled down a ramp and unhitched the trailer door. A gold stallion charged out. It was a giant of a horse, with a huge head and muscular flanks. The stallion kicked at the ground with one of his front hooves.
My father looked at his watch. "Give 'em 'til dusk."
Mendoza stuck his hands in his pockets and spat. "Ten dolla mo'."
"Paid you plenny already."
Mendoza climbed back in his truck. "Back in a coupla hours."
The trailer moved out.
My father secured the gate and joined me behind the fence. He had thin lips, brown eyes, and dark hair. His cheeks were covered with stubble because he never shaved on Moloka'i. He wore horn-rimmed glasses like battle gear and had trouble smiling. He had joined the Army the day after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and got stabbed in combat on Tarawa Atoll. He'd said the only good thing to come out of the war was going to Harvard on the GI Bill.