Tuesday, April 6, 2021

For Iremamber Sykap

 I am preparing for a class on environmental racism when I see the headline

“a 16-year-old boy has been murdered by the Honolulu police department”

That’s what I see, but we know that’s not what it reads.   

The police and mainstream media will first call this child a man. 

Call this murder a “police involved shooting”. 

Will call this “incident” an inevitability

chief Ballard will say, 

We have no further information as the officers involved are “consulting with their lawyers”

“They have been put on a four-day administrative leave”

That is the “normal policy” 

Ballard will admit That there were no weapons found at the scene 

While she hints that maybe one of the 14 or 16-year-old boys (she says men) tossed them

And now the whole internet is engaged in a public debate about whether or not a child deserved to die

And I am weeping, in awe of the magic of this misdirection 

We are having all the wrong conversations 


I am preparing for a class on environmental injustice

Where we will discuss that the most accurate predictor to environmental harm is race

The ordinary topics in this kind of conversation are about toxins, improper waste disposal, and water contamination 

But I think about how our hunger, lack of shelter and healthcare – along with the obscene presence of police SERVAILENCE must be a part of this environmental equation

The math that leads only to our displacement and death 


KITV lets out a hint 

3 of the 6 boys were unsheltered (they say homeless)

Facebook comments will call these children guilty of a lack of worth ethic

“they should have been in school, better yet, had jobs” 

Even from our own lāhui, calling out bastardizations of hawaiian values without context 

“hewa nō, make” 

The worst of us will debate “choice” from our moral high ground

our bellies bloated with privilege


I get caught in the black hole of Facebook comments 

But I cant stop wondering how long it might have been since any of these boys have felt safe, full, protected

I think 

How terrifying it must have been

These kids 

Younger than the age of my baby sister 

The full force of the honolulu police department in pursuit 

And firing 

To me 

This fear is so human

And so I see their faces before a single picture has been released

I know these ʻōpio- they are not strangers to me


And so of course when the news drops I wait for the revelation of what we already know 

The faces of these boys will look like ours
and if we have resisted the forgetting 

Paid attention to the carving of our ocean into digestible, colonizable, categories 

They will be familial 

Sons of our ocean 

Our moananui

The only blue that with ever be worthy of our backing 

If we hold thse genealogies as sacred 

As self evident 

They will remind us 

Of us

And so for just a moment 

the 16-year-old chuukeese boy, named iremamber 

Who was murdered by the Honolulu police will be our





Someone who’s life might matter far beyond the sum of mistakes made under the weight of a society that has already marked him as unworthy 

His brother says, 

“the police hate micronesians for doing what we do... surviving” 

And I think, 

I know that feeling 

Of being a target for elimanation 

A nusence in the neoliberal promise of progress 

living under the crushing weight of a failing state


I said it before

We are having all the wrong conversations

We are examining all the wrong “facts” 

We are engaged in a debate that promises only to strip us of what little is left of our collective humanity 

While a 16 year old boy, born of our moana lays dead 

So instead 

Maybe we could take a moment to pay attention 

To mourn 

To aceept our culpability 

And do anything other than cower, paralized


Watch the way the police will position the murder of a boy as inevitable

Watch the way our lives and the lives of ones we love have become disposable.

Watch the state pivot away from the root cause of crime—use this as a justification for more force against us

Watch the ways the state will justify all this violence 

While calling itself protection 


We must know now

More than. Ever that we much Watch out for eachother – becasue we are our only defense

We are our only chance of survival 





Wednesday, December 9, 2020

For my Haumāna

Remember the year we spent in pō?

How all the things we thought we learned came back up 


And again

And again 

As if there was something we missed?

But couldn’t quite catch 

We spent days holding our breath turning our heads in circles until our faces were blue 


Remember those months we spent grieving

Sitting in our darkness 

Forgetting the light

Mourning a life 

That seemed so far away 

We questioned if it even happened? 


Remember how we (d)evolved

How we became a string of ones and zeros 

Represented in high definition 

But still

Carved out to fit in binary 

In someone else’s algorithm

Living our lives in 75 minute increments 


Remember all the mele we lost 

How we forgot how to sing in harmony

or at least in unison

How we sat there in our own void


Constantly facing our disconnection 

When you reached out for pilina 

Do Remember the thumbnails that starred back at you?

How you wondered if you would ever know the tenor of their sighs

Or the emails

Remember the endless strings of emails 

One after the other

Each a reminder that 

No one seems to have escaped this heaviness 

This flood 

This deluge 

How your haumāna 

Endured challenges you cannot even imagine

Losses you dont know how to hold or comfort 

All from behind the lonely blue glow of a computer monitor

Hearts trembling 

Hands hovering over the unmute button


Remember how your employer did give a fuck 

And insisted you evaluate them with a letter grade anyway 

How the failures of “leadership” soon began to not surprise

As the body count continued to rise 


Remember How so many times you wished

You could reach out to them 

Your students 

With more than an arm of an email thread 

With more than 

Ke aloha nō

How many times you wondered if they felt your sincerity

Or if it had been distorted through the microphone 

Caught and lost somewhere in the endless ether lodged between you


I dont think I will ever forget 

The way this silence broke us like a flood summer rain 

Like a storm shaking us from the summit 

Just like we wont forget how we survived still

Beside each other

Even Thousands of miles away 

The lines of mana wahine we endured to create

Armed held out taut across the oceans and continents 

Made something old 

Almost familiar 

Out of something so strange, distant 

And inhumane 


Most of all I wonder what will remain

Will they know

My haumāna

How I wished so much more for us

For them, for sure 

How most nights I stayed awake paralyzed by our collective anxiety 

How I wanted to show them this ʻāina that has loved and made me

How I wanted to turn our hands together, down to her

So they might have the chance to be loved

And made again too 


But instead 

What we have together is this pō

This dark and churning heat 

Still expanding, growing around us 

Into something I dont know how to hold

All we have is this quiet between us

And the knowing that something better 

or simply something else is soon coming 

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Things to say instead of I Love you:

 I had a life 

unfolding before me

I almost missed the whole thing 

Suffering through the agony of loving

someone, who refused to love me back 

While refusing to let me go 

And this is how I learned: 

Whatever is not mine

Must be released 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Things to Say instead of I love you

 On the nights I dream of my daughter

I wake up thinking of all the imes 

I have wondered: 

“Am I worthy of love?”

I think of all the women 

who said: “Yes yes yes” 

Until it was the chorus 

I sang into my own healing 

I think of the woman I might fail 

To raise into her own bloom

If it weren’t for the fierce flowers 

Who surround me 

Monday, July 13, 2020

Notes on Surviving the End of the world, Again

On the morning you wake to the end of the world

take your body back to the kai

to the place our kūpuna taught us life began

first pō, then coral, then slime

then a whole universe fitting into a space smaller than a grain of sand

then Ea rising through the ocean 

pulling the tides that make mountains

valleys, and the rivers that cut through them

Remember our ʻāina

for all the ways that she has fed us 

in the quiet darkness 

before the blast

dive yourself back into the depth of creation 

recalling all the times your world has ended before:

Call out the names of all the violence that has come

While calling itself protection 

All the ways we have been left 

To gather the shattered pieces

Two island cities in the corner of the pacific 

Flattened to caricature 

Names rendered meaningless, 

Carved over and over again into the binding of our textbooks 

Just enough of their shape remains to call foul at our hubris

But does nothing to slow the arrogant push of “progress” 

In their toxic wake 

Came our “Imperial Lake” 

Our grand Moana Nui Cut wide open 

So on the morning you wake to the end of the world, 

Chant all of the names of our dead and dying

Refuse to forget: 

Kahoʻolawe, Mākua, Pōhakuloa, Mokoliʻi


And then look to the horizon

Call upon the memory of hundreds tests

Carried across our oceanic backs

Bikini and Ānewetak, 

Kiritimati and Kalama, 

Meralinga and Emu, 

Moruroa and Fang ata ufa

And all the unnamed caught choking downwind

Epili Hauʻofa’s beautiful Sea of Islands vison perverted into a sea of toxic waste 

The enduring gift from our American, British and French “protectorates” 

So on the morning you wake to the end of the world 


we have lived this ending before 

Each bomb of history its own strike

The coming of ships

The spreading of death 

The taming of industry

The carving of land, crosses, and cultures

Until all that was left 

Is what could be packaged and sold back at a premium

All because the men with the plans called power 

Promised us “security” behind the barrel of a gun 

Cut a fortress out of a breadbasket and called it “productive” 

Warships, cannons, and Gatling guns pointed at the palace

Then fixed into the ʻiwi of our mountains 

For “protection”

None of it 

Will save us the violence that will continue to come

Bullets only beget more bullets

Bombs only beget bigger bombs

And in the end, all we are left with is this waste, 


And still all this death 

Is not enough to force our forgetting

Our water, our moana, has a memory 

And we are made in her image 



we are 

intimately connected

and infinitely powerful 

so who but ourselves can hold us accountable?

When none of what has been built will save us

From what cannot be called back


This moʻolelo: 

The ea of change is heat

The ea of life only rises from ʻāina and kai 

There is no part of you that is meant to survive

When the cost is this place

Perched up as collateral damage

America’s shining shield sitting in the heart of the pacific 

A warning blast calling for what’s next

Know this: 

On the morning you wake to the end of the world

your vision will be 20-20

so use it

as the men with the “plans” called power call out from behind their screens to tell you to take cover

see beyond the violence of their contradiction

the enduring waste of their direction 

call upon your own mana to make a change 

Choose to remember

Our ʻāina, this kai, these kuahiwi 

And all they have witnessed

Even more they have endured

And still stand to protect us, 

Follow their wisdom 

Come Armageddon or high water  

hold them close

Pull a pule from our naʻau 

Call out to your akua by name

And commit to live your life in their image 

Not matter what the consequence 

And maybe

Just maybe

The world may not have to end again


Friday, May 8, 2020

For Mauna Kea

Its 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 securities from 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

Its 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 

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

When i think of Ea


When I think of ea

I think of music

The breath breaking off the roof of my fathers mouth

How its the softest broken i known 

I think of the makani

The way it must carry its own memory 

I think of the way both 

My father

The wind of his voice

How my first practice in visioning came through singing 

In the malu of my father’s mountain range shoulders

Under the breath of his waiʻōmaʻo winds

How I would do anything to protect him


When I think of sacrifice

I think about led cut against its will 

I think of the bodies, something like a pōhaku

Forced into small shapes to paint death on my ʻāina

On my people

I think of the way Pōhakuloa sings her own song

In the dead of night

Shakes us awake in her trembling 


When I think of ʻeha

I see his face again

In his  dark blues 

I think of the ocena that must still connect us 

But there are too many weapons between us to recognize our pilina

When i think of ʻeha 

I think of  

Clenched jaws and tears streaming like rivers 

Across skin the same tint as my own

I think of my voice 

Reaching out to him

“Brother,  stand with us”

I think, 

In another time

We stood on the same side

I think, 

Mauna a Wākea also casts her malu of protection on him

I think, 

That makes us family 

I believe,  

next time we will be facing the same direction


When I think of trust 

I remember my mothers fingertips

Dancing across my back 

The way the shore break dances upon the sand

I think of all the ways

Love is a verb, a choice, a memory we hold on to 

When I think of trust

I think of my fists

And everything iʻve lost to them

All the sand, salt and promises that crept out from between long fingertips

How I am not so much like my mother

The grace of her open hands

That can hold so much without suffocating 

All the breath around her

How she never fails to make the wind dance


When I think of ea 

I wonder 

What will I offer back to my lāhui

With fists full of rocks

All their breath, all squeezed out

With name im still learning to recall

Sunday, February 2, 2020

For Nā Koʻokoʻo and ʻUlupō

 In an empty church house 

We remembered 


All the abundance that never forgot us 

We sat as the night grew deeper around us

Until we could feel creation again

And when the morning arrived

With her heat

We gathered:  

Our courage 

Our kupuna, 

Our hopes, 

and inspirations

We honored these moments by singing 

Mele into an ʻĀina that never forgot our ea

And with our lima turned down 

And our moʻolelo churning between us 

We grew: 




AND each other 

Until we overflowed 

Mud between our toes and 

Laughter spilling over our lips

And when we were weak, 

unsure of our words and footing

We leaned into the unknown and each other 

Found aloha in the sturdy offering of a hand, a shoulder, 

a quiet, but reassuring sigh 

We brought the ʻulukoa back to the kai at oneawa 

Storming our bodies across kailua beach

Our brown skins simmering in the shore break

The sky opened itself above us 

Nodding in her approval 

Welcoming us back home

So when Malia asked us to 

Share a time we fell deeper in love with our lāhui

Each and everyone of us had too many examples that come to mind 

We scrubbed words on a whiteboard that taunted us in christian scripture 

And so today as we we remove our trace 

from the hale that held us 

We carefully wash every corner clean 

leaving only the verses of our aloha, inscribed

Color expo ink carving our memory into another white background 

Another kailua, waikīkī, University of Hawaiʻi, 

Another place that been transformed to insist we do not belong

That tells us that  we are too brash, 

our ʻike too native, 

our grief to deep,  

our joy too loud…

too strong, too kanaka to be right 

But today we practice the ancient resistance of staying

We leave our Moʻolelo 

A simple and insistent reminder 

that no one can ignore

We are still here